USAO’s Legacy of STEM Excellence

University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma School of Science and Physical Education
University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma School of Science and Physical Education

From its beginnings as one of only seven institutions in the country created as a four-year university for women, the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma has provided students pursuing a degree in STEM a rigorous curriculum, coupled with small class sizes and opportunities for undergraduate research, preparing them to excel after graduation.  

Dating back to its early days as a college for women, the university has produced notable alumni whose contributions have shaped industries and propelled scientific advancements. Among them you will find scientists whose passion for discovery led them to shine.  

Dr. Gladys Anderson Emerson was an American historian, biochemist and nutritionist who researched the impact of vitamins on the body and was the first to isolate Vitamin E. Jerrie Cobb was an American pilot and aviator. She was part of the Mercury 13, a group of women who underwent physiological screening tests at the same time as the original Mercury Seven astronauts and was the first to complete each of the tests. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1981 for her work with the native people of the Amazon and was later the recipient of the Amelia Earhart Award and Medal. Jeane Porter Hester was a physician known for her work in cancer research and therapy. She was one of the developers of IBM 2997, the computerized blood cell separator. Not to be forgotten, Betty Pat Gatliff, a visionary artist who seamlessly blended science with art to expertly create forensic sculptures for detectives, as well as practicing medical and technical illustration. 

In recent years, USAO has witnessed an increase in students pursuing degrees in disciplines that drive technological innovation and scientific discovery. This growth, a notable 19 percent increase since 2020, underscores the university's passion for cultivating the next generation of scientific pioneers and innovators.  

Recognizing the evolving demands of the modern workforce, USAO has, and continues to, adapt its academic programs. In 2023 two new minors—laboratory management and data analytics—within the School of Science & Physical Education were created. These new minors are aimed at equipping students with the diverse skill sets necessary for success in today's competitive landscape.  

"Ensuring students receive an education that prepares them to step into the career field of their choice or graduate school is our responsibility as an institution” said Dr. Rachel Jones, dean of the School of Science & Physical Education. “Through continuous evaluation of curriculum and degree requirements, we uphold our commitment to relevance and modern practices across STEM fields." 

Students also gain experience through undergraduate research opportunities. The mentored research program provides students with advanced experience in research and presentation methods, resulting in research projects suitable for conference presentation and/or professional publication.  

Beyond the classroom, USAO offers students many opportunities to engage with industry leaders and gain real-world experience. Most recently, the university hosted representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy and National Science Foundation for students and faculty to learn about opportunities for research, internships and grant funding.   

As USAO continues to evolve, its commitment to fostering innovation and excellence in STEM education remains unwavering. From its pioneering days as a college for women, the university's legacy is enriched by the achievements of its alumni, whose groundbreaking contributions have left an indelible mark on various fields. With an expanding array of academic offerings and a steadfast dedication to providing students with hands-on research experiences and industry connections, USAO stands poised to nurture the next generation of scientific pioneers and leaders. 

About the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma  

As Oklahoma’s liberal arts college, the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma provides a distinctive education in the liberal arts and sciences, supporting both its interdisciplinary core curriculum and major fields of study with superior teaching. USAO fosters diversity of thought and practice to help students realize meaningful, purposeful and productive lives as global citizens in a rapidly changing world.