OKGIT January 2020 meeting summary

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

After the approval of the November 2019 meeting’s minutes, John VanPool announced his resignation as the incoming Chair due to some unforeseen job duties. As a result, Douglas Price announced that incoming Chair-elect Scott Thompson would become the next chair of the Oklahoma Governor’s International Team starting in March. The OKGIT

Following the financial report from Treasurer Mary Blankenship Pointer, she informed the membership of the account balance and that she was in the process of moving the bank account from Chase Bank to Midfirst Bank. The Gavel Handover Ceremony will take place Feb. 12 from 1-1:30 p.m. at the Oklahoma State Capitol Complex.

Amidst discussion of the treasurer report, the marketing committee encouraged the group to answer the questions that were sent out by John VanPool about whey they joined the GIT.

The Cultural and Education Committee report concerned the status of next year’s International Student Recognition Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol, set to take place on March 4, 2020. OKGIT Student Ambassador Olivia Nguyen from the University of Central Oklahoma also gave an update on her status and will continue to support the group in her capacity. Douglas Price and Cathleen Skinner also presented a new program to the OKGIT would take place every fall during International Education Week that would bring together secondary K-12 and higher education students to practice foreign languages and provide immersion experiences. These students would also be provided opportunities to practice their language skills with visiting delegations to show foreign dignitaries that Oklahomans appreciate global languages and that we are invested in them as a state.

In other education news, Muhammet Sezer shared news about another business called Leaders of Tomorrow Friendship Dinner that will bring together diverse communities from the next generation through dinners to increase understandings of one another.

During the Program Committee report, Scott Thompson and Andrew Ransen noted graduate students from Oklahoma State University would present their work at the OKGIT meeting on March 10. These students are currently conducting research on the impact of international exchanges in the State of Oklahoma. The purpose of the presentation is to provide valuable insight that will benefit members of the OKGIT. Anyone who has other program ideas for speakers for the upcoming year should inform Scott Thompson.

Dr. Cathleen Skinner had several updates from the Oklahoma Department of Education. In her report, Dr. Skinner stated the Oklahoma State Board of Education approved a 2021 budget request of 3.29 billion for common education. This includes a $220 million increase from last year. The request seeks to restore critical instructional funding, including funds to reduce class sizes and hire additional teachers and counselors. On the other hand, world languages in schools continue to struggle. German programs in the state of Oklahoma have disintegrated with only two programs in the state remaining. Furthermore, Oklahoma is down 50% in teacher education programs. Moreover, Tulsa is needing a significant increase in native Spanish speakers in their middle schools and high schools and currently working to recruit teachers from Spain to come and teach.  Dr. Skinner also mentioned a new program taking place across the country that includes students partnering with Girls Who Code to bring computer science opportunities to elementary, middle and high school girls in local communities. These afterschool programs are free for girls to join a sisterhood of supportive peers and role models and use computer science to change the world.

Honorary Consul for Switzerland, Rico Buchli from the Oklahoma Consular Corps reported on their latest activities, including being honored by their biggest sponsor, Oklahoma Sister Cities at a reception in December. Honorary Consul for Peru Enrique Villar Gambetta also informed the group that a sister city agreement was signed between Oklahoma City and Piura, Peru.

In other news, the STEP Program grant has been approved, with several companies looking to participate in international trade shows through STEP grant funding. Jesse Garcia talked about how the STEP grant could also help local businesses wanting to enter the global market or expand international trade capabilities and how it would help promote their companies at a variety of trade shows and reimburse companies for up to 75% of the participation costs. Jamie from Department of Agriculture further discussed how the STEP grant could help local businesses in attending upcoming food shows in Chicago and New York. More information about these shows can be found on our website at www.okgit.com/events.

Commerce also reported that the state would be sending a delegation to the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston in May 2020.

Chief Protocol Officer Chris Moriss reported that the State of Oklahoma will celebrate sister-state relationship anniversaries for the 35th with Kyoto, Japan and Gansu, China as well as the 40th anniversary with Taiwan. She requested the GIT consider different ways to celebrate these anniversaries. Chris also reported that Governor Stitt has been invited to visit their countries as part of these anniversaries.

The U.S. Department of Trade reported that the Hannover Messe trade fair would be taking place from April 20-24th in Hannover, Germany. Anyone interested in attending should contact Marcus Verner.

2020 Consular Summit

Following the committee reports, the group began finalizing preparations for the 2020 Oklahoma Consular Summit that will take place from April 1-3 in conjunction with the World Trade Conference. On April 1, the GIT will host a welcome reception. On the morning and early afternoon of April 2nd, the OKGIT will support the World Trade Conference. Once the WTC concludes, delegations will have a chance to attend industry briefings and plant tours, followed by host dinners that evening. The end of the week would conclude on April 3 with the Consular Summit and lunch with Governor Stitt, allowing plenty of time in the afternoon for visiting delegates and officials to meet with Oklahoma counterparts if desired.

Following input from the Department of Commerce and Secretary of State, initial invitees for the event include Japan, Guatemala, the U.K., Germany, France, South Korea, Mexico, Canada, Italy, Italy, India, Peru, Sweden, Netherlands, Hungary, and Brazil.

Planning and preparations are being led by past-chair James C. Collard, and questions or input are greatly appreciated. Please reach out to Dr. Collard or theokgit@gmail.com to support planning this event.

Upcoming meetings are as follows:

  • March 10thfrom 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM at Dept of Commerce
  • May 19thfrom 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM at Dept of Commerce
  • July 21st from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM at Dept of Commerce

For our program, U.S. Department of State Diplomat in Residence Amanda Johnson presented information about career and program opportunities associated with the U.S. Department of State.

Learn more about their mission and work at state.gov.