Ideas fair at USAO tackles local problems

Dr. Erik Guzik (left) and Dr. Aleisha Karjala (right) talk with students from their Political and Economic Systems and Theories class about projects for the upcoming PEST Innovative Ideas Fair. The Fair is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Tuesday in the USAO Ballroom and is open to the public.

Ideas fair at USAO tackles local problems



Social problems, large and small, plaguing Oklahomans will be the target of students participating in the PEST Fair of Innovative Ideas scheduled for 4 p.m. on April 17 in the Ballroom at the University of Science and Arts.

Political and Economic Systems and Theories (PEST) is one of the final and most challenging classes in USAO’s unique interdisciplinary core curriculum.


PEST students will present projects addressing problems at the state level.  The problems students have chosen to work on range from stray dogs loitering the streets of Chickasha to human trafficking in Oklahoma to fixing education.


Members of the community are encouraged to come out to the PEST Fair and engage with students on their projects and research.


Dr. Aleisha Karjala, assistant professor of political science and Dr. Erik Guzik, associate professor of economics, created the fair as a way of putting the many ideas raised in the class to work.


“The groups that students form must be interdisciplinary, representing multiple majors,” Karjala said. “This hopefully means that each group will identify problems both varied and interesting.  It also demands students think about problem solving from both a creative and practical perspective.  We encourage innovation but also remind students to think about feasibility of proposed policy solutions.”


Twelve different groups are scheduled to present at this year’s fair.


Megan Harris, a sophomore business major from Edmond, is part of a group who decided to propose ways to improve Oklahoma’s image. Starting from the idea that there just wasn’t enough to do or promote here, Harris’ group came to a startling realization.


“There are already several programs in place to improve Oklahoma as well as innumerable attractions worth seeing,” Harris said. “We realized that the issue was not that there was ‘nothing worth seeing or doing’ in Oklahoma, but rather that no one knows about it.


We shifted our original focus into a policy proposal, suggesting that the state government provide grants to not-for-profit attractions to aid in advertising and offer advertising tax breaks for commercial attractions.”


This type of research is exactly what Karjala hopes that students take away from the class.


“This project at least gets the students actively engaged in problem identification and finding policy solutions.  They see the inherent challenges in doing this and can relate to these processes that take place in our political and economic systems,” Karjala said.


More information can be obtained by calling 405-574-1286.


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