State Regents recognize partnership between Eastern and Symbiotic Aquaponic


WILBURTON, OK (April 1, 2016) – Twenty-eight business and education partnerships throughout the state were recently recognized innovative collaborations that further the education of Oklahoma’s workforce. The partnership between Eastern Oklahoma State College and Symbiotic Aquaponic was recognized at the event.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education’s Regents Business Partnership Excellence Award is designed to highlight successful partnerships between higher education institutions and businesses and to further cultivate the higher learning environment through State Regents’ Economic Development Grants. The partnership between Eastern and Symbiotic Aquaponic has enhanced the college’s academic position in the state and placed it on the leading edge of agriculture technology.

Accepting the award on behalf of Symbiotic Aquaponic were Kaben Smallwood, president and chief executive officer, Shelby Smallwood, vice president of research and design, and Regina Cook, vice president of marketing and communications. Kaben Smallwood is also an instructor of business administration at Eastern.

Aquaponics is a sustainable agriculture practice that produces crops without the use of soil and only requires one-tenth the amount of water needed by traditional farming. After the construction of the Eastern’s 2,880-square-foot state-of-the-art greenhouse, Symbiotic Aquaponic and Eastern hosted the state’s first aquaponic certificate course in July 2014. Over the past three years, Symbiotic Aquaponic has provided guidance and direction in the implementation of aquaponics for the college, and has offered numerous certificate courses for the general public.

Students in Eastern’s horticulture, agriculture education, agronomy and forestry classes are currently getting hands-on experience by maintaining the six aquaponics beds. Students are using the beds for research and experiments, as well as propagation for vegetable and bedding plant sales to the public.

Institutions involved in these partnerships provide $500 for tuition waivers to employees of the partnering business; internships for current students of the institutions to work in the businesses; faculty externships with the partnering businesses; and/or enhancement of the partnerships with additional equipment or supplies. In return, the State Regents provide a $500 match to the tuition waiver.

“Our state system institutions collaborate with the business community to link academic programs directly to employment needs,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “These partnerships allow our colleges and universities to provide innovative, interactive learning experiences for students that align with workforce requirements today and in the future.”

Participating in the recognition program with Chancellor Johnson were Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb, State Regent Mike Turpen and Eastern President Dr. Stephen E. Smith.

Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Chancellor Glen D. Johnson (far left) recently recognized the partnership between Eastern Oklahoma State College and Symbiotic Aquaponic. Also at the event were (left to right) Eastern President Dr. Stephen E. Smith; Symbiotic Aquaponic employees Shelby Smallwood, Kaben Smallwood and Regina Cook; Smallwood’s parents, Gary and Janice Smallwood; and Lt. Gov Todd Lamb.

Back to News Listing