People around the world find themselves in the midst of one great, shared experience. Social distancing and large-scalquarantine measures became the norm in the months of March and April for many in the U.S. Colleges and schools stand empty, workplace conversations take place on laptops around kitchen tables or, in many industries, not at all. We spoke with a few of our members whose lives, work and studies have been directly impacted since governments across the U.S. took measures to slow COVID-19’s spread.

Dr. Nyla Ali Khan

Dr. Nyla Ali Khan is a professor at Rose State College, Midwest City, Oklahoma and taught as a Visiting Professor at the University of Oklahoma. Formerly, she was a professor at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. She received her Ph.D. in English Literature and her Masters in Postcolonial Literature and Theory at the University of Oklahoma. Author of several published articles, book reviews and editorials, she has edited Parchment of Kashmir, a collection of essays on Jammu and Kashmir, written four books, including The Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism and Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir: Between Indian and Pakistan.

Nyla Khan

Dr. Nyla Ali Khan

How did the COVID-19 issue impact your day-to-day work?

“The transition to the virtual world has not been a cakewalk for everyone. Several people, particularly of my parents’ generation, are not technology friendly but are now having to adapt to talking with friends and family via Skype or Zoom.

“I have several students who are trying to make ends meet in the midst of this unforeseen crisis. Some of them are now working two jobs, so they can pay their bills.

“Others are working hard to support those of their family members who have been furloughed. There are some who don’t have Wifi access or erratic internet connections, and cannot participate in Zoom meetings as efficiently as they would like to. A couple of days ago, one of my students participated in a Zoom meeting from her car, because her entire family was in the house and she couldn’t concentrate. I saw determination and perseverance in these kids. Several of them pushed themselves to meet deadlines and step up to the plate. They learned to see their challenges as opportunities to grow, and, as an academic, I am here for them.

“While the transition to online classes came with its set of challenges, my students did not throw in the towel. On the contrary, they adjusted to their new reality with a newfound confidence. In the last Zoom session with one of my classes earlier today, everyone got a little sentimental while acknowledging how much we had learned from one another. I am glad that my students and I were able to create a safe environment in which we examined our locations of privilege and sought emotional empowerment in order to understand systems that have generated a culture of silence about systemic discrimination. It has been an invaluable educational experience to hear my students make presentations on their intellectual interests in a world transformed by COVID-19.”

Have there been any positives you can point to in terms of new ways of doing business or working that have come during this time?

“In the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19, bewilderment reigns supreme. Self-imposed isolation is the new social order. People are experiencing a loneliness epidemic because of social distancing. Compassion is rarely expressed, because everyone is looking out for her/himself. I have realized that we need a global response not just to COVID-19 but to humanitarian disasters that have followed in its wake. A lot of us focus on big achievements, forgetting that the small moments count as much as the big ones.

“When it comes to my students, I want to be present not just for the big moments, but for the small ones as well. There is potential for meaning in every moment. COVID-19 compels me to rethink perceptions that some of us thought were unquestionable and self-axiomatic.

“During this period, my students and I built bridges and worked with sincerity. We cannot afford to hamper progressive political and social change. We realized more than ever that we cannot afford to section off humanity into various “races” and various “worlds,” because that robs us of our power to prevent disease from destroying the world. In spite of the physical delineation of the boundaries, we all live in one zone. Our hopes, aspirations, fears, and dangers are the same.

“During this period, my students and I realized more than ever that we are all connected by the common bond of humanity, and that we can take control by holding up with dignity and resilience when adversity knocks on our doors.”

In terms of your international activities, how have those been impacted by the past three months?

“All of us are trying to adjust to the unforeseen changes brought about by the onset of COVID-19. Although traveling to other parts of the world has been incredibly difficult, my life has not been devoid of meaning.

“I have continued to write for international periodicals/ publications, and my work on issues of global import has been appearing in print as well as online editions of those publications. I was also interviewed by the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies, Pakistan, which has recently launched a digital live show, “Global Women Insight,” to talk with “inspiring women leaders about their lives, struggles, and leadership.” My interview was watched by an audience comprising people from various parts of the world, particularly South Asia.”

People around the world find themselves in the midst of one great, shared experience. Social distancing and large-scale quarantine measures became the norm in the months of March and April for many in the U.S. Colleges and schools stand empty, workplace conversations take place on laptops around kitchen tables or, in many industries, not at all. We spoke with a few of our members whose lives, work and studies have been directly impacted since governments across the U.S. took measures to slow COVID-19’s spread.

George Lee III – Red Devil Inc.

George L. Lee, III serves as Vice President of Red Devil, Inc., a manufacturing company with its headquarters in Tulsa. Red Devil manufactures a broad and diversified line of hand tools and chemical products for professional and home maintenance and improvement – more than 400 different products in all. In addition to producing caulks, sealants and tools under its own brand name, the company also manufacture private label products for some of the nation’s largest hardware and home center chains. Its 135,000 square foot production facility is located in the Mid-America Industrial Park in Pryor, OK. The company has been a family owned business since 1872.

British Consul General in Houston Karen Bell and Red Devil Inc.’s George Lee at an OKGIT event in 2015.

What is your title and what does your company/program do in “normal” times?

“I am Vice President,  I handle the legal/benefits/intellectual property work in varying degrees for Red Devil Inc which is a chemical manufacturer and tool distributor to over 40 countries globally and all 50 states.”

How did the COVID-19 issue impact your day-to-day work?

“In an abundance of safety we closed our Tulsa office while keeping our factory up and running. We implemented social distancing, mask usage and other appropriate sanitary routines to keep employees safe while at work.

“Our office employees who are able to work from home are doing so until beginning of June when we will reassess opening out Tulsa office.”

If you’ve been forced to shut down or work from home, how has that impacted your job?

“I have been working from home and what annoys me the most is the lack of my ability to gather all the information I need to answer questions and make decisions in a timely matter. Also the technology to link to my work desktop is slow and laggy as bandwidth is troublesome which ups the annoyance factor.”

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work in the coming few months?

“Ours is reopening the office in a manner that provides a healthy and safe environment for our employees, and filling orders from our factory as we begin starting up new production on lines we have been putting in during this period and continuing from last year.”

Have there been any positives you can point to in terms of new ways of doing business or working that have come during this time?

“I think the forcing of employees to work from home has shown our IT people what needs to be adjusted to make this more efficient.”

In terms of your international activities, how have those been impacted by the past three months?

“Some of our customers have had problems more due to the currency cross rates causing our product to be more pricey, but payments, shipping and orders seem to not have been affected too much.”

The below is a general summary of the events and discussion at the May 2020 OKGIT meeting. It does not represent the official minutes, which will be distributed at a later date.

Due to public health concerns, the group held the meeting over Zoom video conferencing. After the approval of the March 2020 meeting’s minutes, Chris Morriss gave an update regarding the finances of the organization. During the financial report, Chris and Jared informed the OKGIT membership of finances for March and April 2020.

Amidst discussion of the treasurer report, Douglas Price, chair of the membership committee reported that Anthony Cambas from Oklahoma State University had resigned and there were no new perspective members considered for membership at this time.

During the marketing committee report, John VanPool requested for GIT members to answer some questions about how people and organizations have reacted to COVID-19. This information would be placed on our social media pages. John Vanpool also asked GIT members to check their bios to make sure they’re up to date. Anyone interested in answering these questions or needing to update their biography are encouraged to contact John VanPool or Executive Director, Jared Scism.

The Cultural and Education Committee reported on the inaugural GIT ambassador, Olivia Nguyen and the work she has done as a GIT ambassador over the past year. Douglas Price also stated he announced the ambassador program to students at International Recognition Day at the State Capitol, and we now have three candidates for future programs.
During the Program Committee report, Shalon Simmons announced Dottie Overal from Small Business Administration will be our program speaker at the July meeting. Dottie will be speaking about the CARES Act and incentives for small businesses.

Rico Buchli informed the membership that the Oklahoma Consular Corps had been on hold and that there had been no updates since the March Governor’s International Team meeting. Enrique Villar Gambetta, Honorary Consul of Peru also informed the membership about a coordination between OSU and Peruvian fisherman that would send saltwater fish to Oklahoma to be processed by Native Americans in order to help tribal nations grow economically. A presentation about this partnership can be found here.

Jamie Cummings from Oklahoma Department of Agriculture updated the group about a beef task force that is working on creating a beef processing plant in Oklahoma. She also mentioned a program called “Localhoma” was created to promote local producers. Jamie informed the group that most food exporting programs have been canceled and that OK Ag has been working to refund travel and registration fees. Jamie closed by informing the group that Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture will be talking with Azerbaijan to focus on educational exchanges with Oklahoma State University. Azerbaijan is also planning an agriculture forum in November and hoping Oklahomans can travel there.

Jesse Garcia from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce informed the membership that many of the ODOC’s trade shows for the year had been canceled and that Jennifer Springer was promoted to Director of the Business Group. Jesse also provided the group an update regarding the ODOC’s 2019 Global Report. Jesse finished his report by asking the group to inform him of any companies interested in doing business in Mexico. To contact Jesse, click here.

Dr. Cathleen Skinner had several updates from the Oklahoma Department of Education in regards to COVID-19. Dr. Skinner stated that reopening the state did not change school closures for the Spring. However changes in summer in fall such as schools starting earlier or later may occur. OSDE has also recognized a huge digital divide between districts since COVID-19. OSDE is working to support different districts, families, and students to fill in the learning gaps. Dr. Skinner also mentioned that some school districts would be holding graduation ceremonies later this year and OSDE was also developing a statewide program.
Dr. Skinner closed her remarks by telling the OKGIT membership the Seal of Biliteracy was approved by the Board of Education on March 25th and waiting for the Governor’s signature.

Debbie Blanke reported that the regents transitioned 175,000 college students online who were offered a pass/no-pass option. Debbie also revealed that higher education will see at 3.9% cut in FY’ 21. A website that shows how each university is responding to COVID-19 statewide can be viewed here.

Chief Protocol Officer Chris Morriss reported that Oklahoma received a surprise visit from Taiwan to donate 100,000 masks to the state of Oklahoma.

The U.S. Department of Trade reported that they are continuing to assist Oklahoma companies during this time by providing assistance virtually (Telephone, Microsoft Teams/Skype for Business/Cisco Webex). A complete report from Marcus is listed below.

Paycheck Protection Program (NEW Funding Authorized 4/24/20 – check availability):

  • If you are a small business (e.g., <500 employees, or other conditions) that needs help to cover payroll, rent and utilities for eight weeks, click here. This is a 24-month loan with a 1% interest rate, and may be forgiven if at least 75% of the funds are used for payroll and related costs. To find an eligible lender by state, click here.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) (NEW Funding Authorized for Agricultural Businesses – check availability):
 If you are an agricultural small business the EIDL are working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue. Applicants for Economic Injury Disaster Loans may also be eligible for an advance for up to $10,000. This loan advance will not have to be repaid for eligible applicants. Apply at

SBA Loan Debt Relief: If you are a small business that has a current or plan to get a future SBA loan, SBA will pay the principal and interest on loans through 9/27/20. Click here for more information.

SBA Express Bridge Loans: This loan allows small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000.

EXIM Programs for Exporters: You may have also seen that Exim Bank has made some adjustments to their export finance programs, including extending deadlines and streamlining the application requirements. If I can help facilitate an introduction to an Exim Bank Specialist, I would be glad to do so.

Bridge Financing Program, Pre-delivery/Pre-Export Program, Supply Chain Financing, and Working Capital Guarantees and revised procedures. Companies of all sizes are eligible to apply here.

Rural Community Resources: And for rural communities, USDA and its Federal partners have programs that can be used to provide immediate and long-term assistance to rural communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. These programs can support recovery efforts for rural residents, businesses and communities through technical, training, and management assistance; financial assistance; and state and local assistance. Click here for more information. Rural Communities Resource Guide

Lastly, click here to see the operating status for U.S. Commercial Service offices around the world.

Chuck Mills also mentioned that the Oklahoma World Trade Conference is set for September 24th in Tulsa.

Following the committee reports, Jim Collard mentioned there was nothing new to report on the Consular Summit. At this time, the Governor’s International Team is uncertain when the next summit will take place. Further discussions about the Consular Summit will occur at the July meeting

Chairman, Scott Thompson reported the GIT submitted our annual reports to Oklahoma Business Roundtable. At this time it is uncertain whether GIT will receive funds from BRT for the next year. As a result, GIT will form a fundraising committee. Anyone interested in leading or helping with this committee should contact Jared Scism.

Executive Director, Jared Scism informed the membership that dues and sponsorship could now be paid on the OKGIT website. Members interested in sponsoring the OKGIT may visit For further questions, contact Jared Scism at

In closing, Jared Scism reported several international students studying at universities in Oklahoma are struggling to purchase groceries or pay rent because they cannot receive money from family or return home. After brief discussion, a committee was formed by GIT members working at universities to determine the best way for GIT to assist Oklahoma international students moving forward.

Upcoming meetings are as follows:

  • July 21st from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM at Dept of Commerce (TBD)
  • September 15th from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM at Dept of Commerce
  • November 17th from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM at Dept of Commerce

For our program, Scott Stone from Euler Hermes presented about the ways Euler Hermes offers trade credit insurance and solutions worldwide.

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Governor’s International Team elected Scott Thompson of Mercer Valve as chairman.

Other officers include Bob Lieser of Tulsa Global Alliance, secretary, Shalon Simmons of Global ICT as vice-chairwoman, Douglas Price of Tulsa Community College will serve as immediate past chair. Executive Director Jared Scism remains in his role.

“My background is in accounting, manufacturing and information technology, but the beauty of a group like the OKGIT is there are so many of us from different sectors and professions that want to grow Oklahoma’s international ties,” said Thompson. “I am happy to help lead that mission through the course of the next year.”

Thompson is the Director of Accounting and Information Technology at Mercer Valve, Co., Inc., a manufacturer of American-made, high-quality safety relief valves. A longtime employee at the Oklahoma City-based company, he spent 19 years as accounting director and deployed financial strategies that empowered the firm to grow beyond the OKC metro area. He played a key role in restructuring the Mercer Valve Co.’s financial operations and supporting the opening of 13 branches, including three located in Australia and Canada.

Prior to his appointment as chair, he served as the program chairman at the OKGIT bi-monthly meetings. A member of the Oklahoma Society of Certified Public Accountants, he is an active volunteer in his community with Epikos Speech and Debate club to encourage high school students to participate and compete in local, regional and international-level National Christian Forensics and Communications Association designated tournaments. Scott’s business and personal interests have taken him to Australia, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

The mission of the Oklahoma Governor’s International Team is to be an advocate for sustainable economic development through export trade and foreign direct investment and to encourage and facilitate the globalization of Oklahoma. It was established in 2001 as an advisory and coordinating entity.

Banner photo: Outgoing chair of the Governor’s Economic Development Marketing Team Richard Cornelison, current OEDC chair Kinnee Tilly, Governor Kevin Stitt, Oklahoma Governor’s International Team Chair Scott Thompson and outgoing OKGIT chair Douglas Price at the February 2020 Gavel Ceremony in the state capitol.

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt made the announcement and OKC added it’s eighth Sister City with the addition of Piura, Peru.

Thanks to the advocacy and hard work of Honorary Consul of Peru in Oklahoma Enrique Villar-Gambetta and the Sister Cities International Oklahoma team, Oklahoma City residents will have another new relationship to celebrate.

“The Sister Cities program is very active in OKC & I find the program and especially its events are a great way to connect with our immigrant community as well as the leaders & residents in our Sister Cities around the world,” said Mayor David Holt in a press release upon signing the agreement with the Alcalde (Mayor) Juan Jose Diaz Dios in late January 2020.

The city of approximately 484,000 lies on the river that shares its namesake, and was the first Spanish city founded in Peru by Conquistador Francisco Pizarro.

The Sister City agreement signed by both leaders says the relationship is intended to expand mutually beneficial cooperation between citizens of both cities while promoting good will, economic relations and foster charitable, scientific and commercial activities.

Honorary Consul Villar-Gambetta is an Oklahoma City-based attorney originally from Peru. He has practiced law for 31 years in Peru and through partner law offices handles diverse proceedings in other countries like Chile, Colombia and Panama. In December 2011 by Supreme Resolution No.450-2011, dated December 15, 2011, signed by the President of the Republic of Peru, Mr. Ollanta Humala Tasso and his Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Rafael Roncagliolo Orbegoso appointed Enrique Villar-Gambetta Honorary Consul of Peru in the City of Oklahoma City, United States of America, with circumscription in the State of Oklahoma.

He has been a member of the OKGIT since 2013.

Header Photo – Honorary Consul Villar-Gambetta with his son Alonso alongside Sister Cities International Oklahoma City representatives Jane Abraham, Mary Blankenship Pointer and Dr. Mucky Right at OKC City Hall for the proclamation signing. 

In conjunction with the 2020 Oklahoma World Trade Conference to be held on April 2, 2020 at the Tulsa Tech Owasso Conference Center in Owasso, you are invited to nominate your company for the annual Governor’s Award for Excellence in Exporting.  Nominations will be reviewed and the winners selected by the Awards Committee of the Oklahoma District Export Council.

The Governor’s Award for Excellence in Exporting recognizes one or more Oklahoma firms annually for noteworthy success in maintaining or increasing export sales.  Firms selected to receive the award represent role models for excellence in international business.  In addition, this award provides an opportunity to build public support for international business activity by Oklahoma firms.


Click here for the Oklahoma Export Champion Awards Full Description –  Created by the OkDEC to recognize Oklahoma small and medium-sized enterprises that have successfully entered in the international marketplace emphasizing the important role that exporting plays in the U.S. economy, while highlighting the contributions made by exporters to their local communities and the world.

Click here for the Oklahoma Export Achievement Award Full Description – The Export Achievement Award was created to recognize small and medium-sized enterprises that have successfully entered the international marketplace for the first time or that have successfully entered a new market. Nominations are encouraged and can be accepted throughout the year from local businesses, elected officials and community leaders. Nominations should be submitted to the local U.S. Export Assistance Center.


Oklahoma-based manufacturers, agri-businesses, service companies or suppliers engaged in exporting products or services are eligible to apply.  Applicants should demonstrate one or more of the following:  breakthroughs in existing competitive markets, introduction of a new product into export trade, opening a trade area previously closed or successfully overcoming threats to their existing export activity.  Unique and successful solutions to problems of export trade, such as financing, transportation, marketing or successful promotional programs should also be demonstrated.


Are your competitors being recognized for their work while you’re missing out? Click here to see the previous years winners and consider nominating your firm today!


For a nomination application (3 pages) for the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Exporting, e-mail or call 405/608-5302.  The application must be completed and returned by February 28, 2020.

All applicants will also be considered for the *U. S. Department of Commerce Export Achievement Certificate and Oklahoma District Export Council Export Champion Award.  Information explaining the Export Achievement Certificate and Export Champion Award is attached.

* Eligibility for the U.S. Department of Commerce Export Achievement Certificate will be on a one-time basis

For more information, contact Marcus Verner at

The below is a general summary of the events and discussion at the September 2019 OKGIT meeting. It does not represent the official minutes, which will be distributed at a later date.

After the approval of the July 2019 meeting’s minutes, Treasurer Randy Kellogg read off the financial report for the OKGIT. Following the approval of the budget, Kellogg announced his intention to resign from his executive team position and return to normal membership in the OKGIT.

Chair Douglas Price requested nominations for two positions upon this announcement; treasurer and vice-chair for 2020. All nominations should be sent to Price or Executive Director Jared Scism.

The Membership Committee announced their support for the approval of a new member, Dr. Mucki Wright. Following a unanimous vote by the meeting, her membership as an OKGIT member was approved. In other membership news, Meloyde Blancett was approved as an ex-officio member due to her role as an elected state legislator and as the head of Creative Oklahoma. The OKGIT will also welcome the new U.S. Department of State’s Diplomat in Residence when her approval comes through from Washington D.C.

The Culture and Education Committee updated the group on progress for International Student Recognition Day, which is set to take place March 4, 2020. Dr. Cathleen Skinner introduced the OKGIT’s first-ever Student Ambassador, Olivia Nguyen, from the University of Central Oklahoma.

Program Committee Chair Scott Thompson noted that at the group’s November 2019 meeting, People to People International World Headquarters CEO Merrill Eisenhower will speak. Global Aerospace Company Cobham PLC confirmed receipt of the group’s request for a speaker at a 2020 meeting. Cobham opened a new facility at Tinker Air Force Base in March 2019. OKGIT members are encouraged to forward all ideas for meeting program speakers to

The work from the OKGIT history committee is ongoing, with Jon Neff planning a meeting of some long-time or former members of the group to generate additional information. The project’s completion date is estimated at year’s end.

In updates from state partners, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture noted that a visiting Taiwanese Wheat Trade Delegation was in the state. There is also ongoing work in attending the Food Expert Fall Meetings in October and the Azerbaijani Agriculture Forum in November. There will be a Made in Oklahoma restaurant at the Tulsa State Fair this year to showcase the local food service companies.

Luis Domenech, Oklahoma’s Mexico Trade Representative, will be in Oklahoma October 7-11 to meet with Oklahoma companies interested in exporting into Mexico or other trade services. Whether new to market or already doing business in Mexico, this will be an international business opportunity to help drive new or identify additional sales opportunities.

The United States Foreign Trade Zone and Export-Import Bank of the United States will host a free seminar to help local Oklahoma businesses and other relevant players increase their competitiveness in the international market. The seminar will include presentations by Kelly Kemp, Regional Director for EXIM Bank, and Camille Evans, Sr. Analyst for the U.S. Foreign Trade Zones Board. The seminar will take place on Thursday, October 24 at OSU OKC campus in the John Kilpatrick Building – Agriculture Resource Center room 196 beginning at 8:00 a.m.

In the report for the Oklahoma Department of Education, Dr. Cathleen Skinner noted that Eisenhower International School will receive an education award from the French government for high-quality French instruction. There are also 31 visiting teachers from Spain preparing to teach in Tulsa dual language programs, though a final renewal of the agreement must be signed with the new Spanish government.

U.S. Department of Trade’s Marcus Verner noted that the Oklahoma World Trade Conference will take place on April 2, 2020 in Tulsa. Chair Douglas Price discussed an annual awards event to recognize supporters of the OKGIT’s mission. The issuing the awards could be done at the Oklahoma World Trade Conference, with U.S. Department of Commerce supporting this idea. The executive team will discuss the awards at their next call.

The Oklahoma Consular Summit discussions were ongoing, with the group approving a $2,000 expenditure to hold a reservation for an evening reception at the fall event. However, word came just after the meeting that the summit might clash with another event in Texas in which all the consul generals would be at. The planning committee plans on having a call to reevaluate the path forward.

The group’s January meeting will take place at 2 p.m. on the third Thursday of that month at Frontier Bank with a reception to follow. The location of the reception will be determined by the next meeting. Light hour’derves and the first round of drinks will be covered by the OKGIT.

Past-chair John Curzon motioned the $5,000 support the OKGIT and corporate sponsors provided for Gastech Reception in Houston on September 17. OKGIT funds provided by the Oklahoma Business Roundtable totaled $3,000, with an additional $2,000 reimbursed by corporate sponsorships. The group approved the expenditures.

To conclude the meeting with, Oklahoma State University’s Anthony Cambas discussed the certified global business professional student pathway program.

The next meeting will take place on November 19th at 9:00 AM at the Department of Commerce.





Governor Kevin Stitt issued a gubernatorial citation to the Oklahoma Governor’s International Team for its role in organizing the 2019 International Student Recognition Day at the state capitol.

The OKGIT partnered with Representative Mark McBride to bring more than 40 students from around the globe who attend Oklahoma higher education institutions to see the state government at work. In addition to remarks by Governor Stitt and Representative McBride, students had the opportunity to hear from Secretary of Native American Affairs Lisa Billy about the distinct role that the state’s 39 tribal nations play.

International Student Recognition Day is one of many cultural, educational and diplomatic events that the OKGIT organizes each  year to grow the state’s international ties. The group consists of professionals in the private, public and non-profit sector interested in developing a more international Oklahoma. For more information email