A Decade of Progress: Lessons Learned in Developing the UCO Downtown

  • John F Barthell University of Central Oklahoma
  • Charlotte K Simmons University of Central Oklahoma
  • Karen Youngblood University of Central Oklahoma
Keywords: innovation districts; strategic planning; urban learning facility


For over a decade, the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) has been engaged in defining its role within the Oklahoma City (OKC) Metropolitan Area. By 2013, an enhanced physical presence developed for UCO within OKC itself, including the creation of the Academy of Contemporary Music and the CHK|Central Boathouse. Afterwards, and in accordance with UCO’s strategic plan, Vision 2020, the Brookings Institution and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce explored links between OKC and workforce development needs, in parallel with planning for an Innovation District. Emerging from that planning is UCO Downtown, a flexible urban learning facility on the border of OKC’s Business District and the recently designated Innovation District. An upcoming renovation of offices and business incubators will provide additional space for the growth of UCO Downtown, as well as serving as home to Customized Education, a non-degree credit program serving metropolitan businesses. With substantial enrollment increases during the first three cycles of enrollment, programs have begun to anchor themselves into the OKC Downtown. The convergence of UCO Downtown with recent recommendations by the Brookings Institution forms the basis for UCO’s goal of serving OKC’s workforce (especially in STEM) as well as the broader OKC community (Arts, Business, Education, Government, etc.). The purpose of this paper is to describe a case study for the introduction of a learning facility in an urban environment (Oklahoma City) and to reflect on important lessons drawn from that experience. We hope this article will benefit others with similar objectives in their own institutional strategic plans.

Author Biographies

John F Barthell, University of Central Oklahoma

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affair

Charlotte K Simmons, University of Central Oklahoma

Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs

Karen Youngblood, University of Central Oklahoma

Executive Director for Continuing Education


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