The power of people, the power of Drovers

USAO Drovers, Chris Wise & Jarred Turner.
USAO Drovers, Chris Wise & Jarred Turner.

Chris Wise was a standout athlete and classmate during his time at the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma. A member of the university’s inaugural track and field team, Wise’s experience as a Drover truly exemplifies the university’s mission to educate the whole person, and proves your educational journey doesn’t stop when you walk off campus for the final time.

“I graduated from the university in the spring of 2021. In my time at USAO I was able to come out of my shell and really develop into a leader,” said Wise. “I met such great people who helped shape who I am now. These people were coaches, professors, friends and other staff members who really showed they cared about who you were and how you were doing. These relationships helped me get out of my comfort zone and truly reach my potential.”

After graduating USAO, Wise attended Oral Roberts University to earn his master’s in sports and leisure administration while working in various positions for Energy FC, the OKC Thunder, USAO and Paycom. In each position, he just felt something was missing…until last year. Wise decided he wanted to pursue a career in education, and it was during his interview for a position at a local junior high where he felt his post-graduate journey come full circle.

“The first time I met Jarred Turner was in my interview. He was wearing a USAO golf shirt. I’ll never forget it, I knew that’s when I needed to work there,” said Wise.

A 2005 graduate, Turner also exemplifies the uniqueness of USAO. He earned his bachelor’s in communication and has utilized his degree in various interdisciplinary avenues. In 2017, Turner became an honorary Tennessean for his contributions to the state, and the next year was featured in the USAO “100 Alumni You Should Know” series for creating the Tomorrow’s Oklahoma Leaders Lecture Series (TOLLS), which connects Turner’s students with current and former politicians both in person and through letters. In 2021, he received the USAO Young Alumni award.

“Still to this day, when I walk on campus, I have an overwhelming since of being home,” said Turner. “My four years at USAO were such an important transformational part of my life. When I received the young alumni award, that was a dream come true for me. I’m amazed that at that point in my career, I was thought of well enough to be honored.”

His excellence only continued to flourish as he was named the Central Junior High Teacher of the Year in 2023. Turner teaches in the classroom right next door to Wise’s first classroom, and is currently among the top five finalists for the Moore Public Schools Teacher of the Year award.

“If you ever get the chance to see that man in action, do it! He’s the kind of teacher I wish I had in school at that age,” said Wise. “Jarred is a great storyteller and super knowledgeable about U.S. History.”

Turner used his knowledge and experience to prepare his fellow Drover as Wise took on his first year in teaching. Turner made sure that Wise was supported at a time that easily could have become isolating.

“I met Chris a little over a year ago in his interview with my school,” said Turner. “We have definitely bonded over our mutual love for USAO, because it is a special place that's hard to describe to people who don’t know. Now Chris is the athletic director for our school, and I could not be prouder of him.”

“Without him, I know my first year would’ve been so much more challenging,” said Wise. “He told me a story about his first year teaching and how no one was really there to help him, at least not at the capacity that he was able to help me. If I was ever struggling, he was there to help me out with what I needed. That gave me the confidence I have now. The key is to be able to accept help when you need it.”

Within three years of graduating, Wise has been appointed Athletic Director and a Physical Education teacher for Central Junior High and the track coach for the Moore Lions Junior High and High School programs. At every step of the way, Wise held strong to the foundational lessons he learned at USAO, lessons that were deeply reinforced through his accidental mentorship with his fellow alum and coworker.

“My biggest takeaway from USAO is how to treat people,” said Wise. “USAO is a great school, and I can talk about its academics all day, but what makes that place special is the people who work there. No matter what you decide to do in life, you always need to show people that you care for them and that you are there to support them...that will always lead to success.”

USAO’s interdisciplinary approach upholds the importance of people and teaches skills that prepare students for life after graduation. The curriculum is designed to promote independence in thought and problem solving, allowing our students to join the workforce better prepared for the duties not be listed in their job descriptions.

“The biggest lesson I learned at USAO was that great minds don’t think alike, great minds think for themselves,” said Turner. “In any career that I have had I try to implement that outside the box thinking and present something different than expected. I have learned that the world is incredibly diverse and that we can grow so much by learning about and better understanding those with different backgrounds.”

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.