Path Home Shows 2015 Show Archive June 2015 Show 1526 Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1526

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1526

This week on Oklahoma Horizon, we look at how the intersection of immigration and education could determine our economy’s future.
Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1526

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1526

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Meridian Technology Center


U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Francis Tuttle Technology Center


Show Details

Show 1526: Oklahoma Horizon TV
Air Date: June 28, 2015



Rob McClendon: Here’s what’s coming up on your “Horizon.” Well, America was built by immigrants converging from around the world looking for a better life. Yet too often, it is the undocumented worker who gets all of our attention. Today, our focus is on legal immigration and the role it plays in our economy.

Dave Henneberry: Most of the students that go back home are international students. If they do do something with the U.S. in the future, they’ll try to do it within Oklahoma. That spells opportunity for our state.

Rob: And we end our day looking at the history underfoot.

Amanda Harding: It’s like a treasure hunt.

Rob: Stay with us for “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Male Announcer: “Oklahoma Horizon” is made possible by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.

Female Announcer: Oklahoma’s investment in CareerTech provides more than nationally recognized technology education and training. It produces solid financial returns for the state’s economic future. Oklahoma CareerTech, elevating our economy.

Male Announcer: And the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, helping good people grow good things. And now, from the CareerTech studios in Stillwater, here’s your host, Rob McClendon.

Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” There are several phrases associated with the Statue of Liberty, but the most recognizable is, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” And it is that American dream of opportunity and abundance that still attracts immigrants to our shores today. Yet it is seldom an easy journey. The pathway to legal immigration is not only long, but often expensive. So each year, millions of people travel to the United States with temporary visas, yet less than 5 percent of these non-U.S. citizens are granted work-related visas allowing them to hold a job while they’re here. But one international student is working to break those odds. and here to tell us her story is our Courtney Maye.

Courtney Maye: Radwa Hanafy came to Oklahoma from Egypt with her two kids and husband, who is now in a master’s program at Oklahoma State University. After being turned down by hospitals for work, Hanafy found her place as a student at Meridian Technology Center.

Courtney Maye: Radwa Hanafy has a burning desire to enter the U.S. medical field. And with more than five years of experience, degrees in chemistry, microbiology and medical technology, Hanafy has the experience and the education, yet doesn’t qualify to work in the U.S. because it’s from another country.

Radwa Hanafy: The hospital said we don’t issue a working visa. So this was like the ending point for me.

Maye: But in fact, it was just the beginning. Hanafy is now on the fast track at Meridian Technology Center, working toward a medical degree in the U.S.

Hanafy: One day, just by coincidence, I came here. I just go and ask, and the lady over there she really work with me. She said, “We can accept you.” So I came. Everything was like dream.

Courtney: But biotechnology instructor Cheryl Cottom was concerned the curriculum would not be challenging for Hanafy because of the experience she has in the medical field.

Cheryl Cottom: I was concerned that she would be at such a level and on the same playing plane that I am on. And so when she came, I was concerned for her and I was concerned for myself.

Courtney: But Hanafy’s experience has created an environment where both teacher and student are learning from one another.

Cottom: I have never taught an adult. There’s been times when she’s said, “Well, I don’t think that’s quite right.” And I was like, “Well, yeah, let’s take a look at this.” And, you know, sometimes she’s right, and I am not.

Courtney: Hanafy’s mindset toward school is serious, and her dream of working in the medical field in the United States is dependent on her academic advancement.

Hanafy: To go back to school and study with the mind of an adult is just completely different than when you are young in high school thinking for everything except studying. But now, I am studying. I am refreshing my mind. I’m looking for the materials by different perspective.

Courtney: Hanafy says Meridian Technology Center has given her the opportunity to pursue her dream in the U.S.

Hanafy: I’m so glad. I’m so lucky to be here.

Courtney: And Hanafy is not alone. It is almost impossible for an international student to be accepted into medical school in the United States. Nearly 50,000 students apply to medical school each year and less than 1 percent of those accepted are international students.

Rob: But it does sound like Miss Hanafy is at least on her way to her dreams?

Courtney: Yes, Hanafy says the teacher-to-student ratio and the hands-on experience she is gaining from the labs at Meridian Technology Center is exactly what she needed.

Rob: So what exactly are her plans once she finishes with her biotechnology program at Meridian?

Courtney: Hanafy has been accepted into a master’s program at Oklahoma State University and she’ll be working towards her Ph.D. in a medical related field.

Rob: All right. Thank you so much, Courtney.

Courtney: You’re welcome, Rob.

Rob: Now, when we return, we look at the economic benefits of bringing some of the world’s brightest to our shores and then keeping them here.

Male Announcer: You’re watching “Oklahoma Horizon,” featuring some of the good things that are happening in the great state of Oklahoma.

Rob McClendon: Now, it’s no secret that America’s top schools are having a hard time keeping up with the demand for STEM graduates in the workplace. Science, technology, engineering and math are all fields where there are more jobs than there are qualified applicants. And here’s the rub: It is international students studying at American universities who often excel in the STEM classes. Yet when it comes to getting a job, joining America’s workforce is getting harder and harder, so many top international graduates head home. It’s a brain drain that some believe hurts our nation’s economic competiveness in this new global economy.

Rob: For Ethiopian Fregenat Andya, finding her classes on the first day of school is the least of her worries.

Fregenat Andya: It’s not really easy for us to come here.

Rob: Andya is one of a record number of international students enrolled in U.S. colleges, and it’s not an easy journey.

Andya: It’s like, if you take it from just one school perspective, it’s like a year process to get to a school. But if you think of it like from all the applications you do, for me it took me like three years to, like, to come here.

Rob: International students have to prove not only do they have the money for tuition but the English skills to succeed in class. Dave Henneberry is the head of OSU’s Wes Watkins School of International Studies and says once here, international students take full advantage of what they’re offered.

Dave Henneberry: Some of them come from countries where it’s just a little bit harder to carve out a career than it is in the United States. And they know they’ve really gotta have their full game on and get as qualified and learn as much as they can in school. And so that attitude and desire to progress their career is something we find just really nice to work with.

Rob: But once educated, we often lose some of the best and brightest to jobs abroad. International salaries now rival those here in the U.S., while the pathway to a U.S. job is often littered with stumbling blocks.

Henneberry: Yes that’s true, and I’ve heard from the College of Engineering that some of their graduates now are returning home to India because they’re actually getting better salary offers there than they are in the United States. So we’ve seen it transfer where now the salary competitiveness of overseas occupations is on a par with what we’re offering in the U.S. So it is an important issue – where are these highly qualified people going to locate, and what industries will they develop and work in, and which countries will benefit from those? And I think the argument that we make in the university is that the country that keeps the most qualified people will have those industries.

Rob: For Mexican national and OSU graduate Rodrigo Tello, staying and working in the U.S. is a goal but he knows it won’t be easy.

Rodrigo Tello: Here in the U.S., I mean, we live in a multicultural society, no matter where you go. So it’s good for all. Most of the students not only hold a degree or have an international experience.

Rob: Special visas called Optional Practical Training or OPTs are necessary for internationals to find employment in the U.S.

Tello: It depends, I mean, it’s like really dropping a coin, and sometimes you are lucky, sometimes you are not, sometimes you can find a job with your OPT. There’s a lot of people that stay in the U.S. with an OPT status holding a degree from an American university, and they cannot find a job, and they have to go back to their home country.

Rob: So do you have any suggestions on what you think we should do here from a policy perspective as a country?

Henneberry: From a policy perspective, I think that we should work with the government and industry. And if the industry requests that an individual be granted a visa because they’re the best hire for that company, because they have a reason to work them in, then I think that we should as a country try to accommodate that request. So I think we could work out some type of workable system where our, our industry communicated with government, and we were able to issue visas for those qualified individuals that want to stay.

Rob: From what you’ve seen, has it gotten harder to get a work visa?

Henneberry: I think so. It has gotten a little bit harder. One of the changes that occurred is that now the businesses are required to pay the costs of the legal fees for obtaining a green card for example. And the fact that the businesses have to pay that cost is an extra financial barrier.

Rob: A costly and tedious process that can take years with fees that run into the thousands – enough of a headache to scare many employers away.

Henneberry: So if they hire someone, and they’re willing to pay that it certainly indicates that they really do want to employ that person.

Rob: And for Ethiopia’s Fregenat Andya, whether she gets a job here or back at home, the experience of studying in the States she says will help her no matter where she works.

Andya: Yeah, I believe I can be of really good value for that, for that process in the country. So that’s what I’m hoping. I would want to get more experience about the international trade aspect and then go there and help my country.

Rob: So just from sheer economics, is it in our best interest to have more international students here in the States and possibly more international students working in the States after they graduate?

Henneberry: It absolutely is in our best interest because when we look at Oklahoma and the friends of Oklahoma and where they’ll come from in the future, we’re developing them now here at Oklahoma State. I had a fellow from Germany come into my office last year, and he had been an exchange student at OSU 27 years earlier, and he just wanted to come in and tell me that through his entire professional life he had maintained a connection with Oklahoma – and what a wonderful thing. And so most of the students that go back home are international students. If they do do something with the U.S. in the future, they’ll try to do it within Oklahoma. And that spells opportunity for our state in terms of economic development, trade relationships, political relationships – having that population of people that are so familiar with Oklahoma is good for us.

Rob: Well, currently, OSU has students from 120 countries, with China, India and Korea making up more than half of those enrolled. And while most will not be able to stay and work in this country, Henneberry says there’s still a benefit for both the international students and their classmates. According to Henneberry, working with those from abroad gives American students a good perspective into what is an ever-growing global marketplace.

Female Announcer: Still to come on “Oklahoma Horizon,” examining Oklahoma history underfoot, but first, hope for a desperate country.

Rob McClendon: Well, located on the west coast of Africa, Sierra Leone is a beautiful country with abundant natural resources, yet it is a country that has endured terrible heartache. Last year, it was the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak that killed more than 10,000 and created fear around the world. And while today, a land of peace, Sierra Leone still bears the scars of a gruesome civil war that enveloped the country, leaving 50,000 dead and over 300,000 children orphaned. And it is the story of one of these orphans, now a young adult, we want to share.

Rob McClendon: With unspoiled beaches and a tropical locale, Sierra Leone is a country of contrast – rich in natural resources, yet desperately poor, a peaceful people, still recovering from years of war that left more than 300,000 children orphaned – young people that are now entering adulthood. Abubakarr Bangura grew up inside this orphanage in the Sierra Leone capital of Freetown.

Abubakarr Bangura: I don’t really know like the full story about this war or the background, how it happened, but I experienced it when I was like, you know, young.

Rob: And while life inside this orphanage was never easy, it was decidedly better than life on the street.

Bangura: It was, like, so terrible. Like, I was fortunate to be in an orphanage home.

Rob: Crystal Coon says with the help from her family, she was able to help Bangura come to the States to study.

Crystal Coon: We exist to provide simple opportunities for kids in orphanages to earn income and to learn life skills so that they can be productive members of society when they leave orphanages.

Rob: Now a student at Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City, Bangura is grateful for the new opportunities he could only imagine before.

Bangura: It’s such a blessing for me to be part of this country in Oklahoma states.

Rob: Enrolled in Francis Tuttle’s IT program, Bangura is getting certified in a field with tremendous job demand.

Bangura: I love because and they are so patient with me, to work with me, to try to guide me. Anytime I need them, they’re here also to help me.

Rob: As Bangura finished up his training, he recognizes the lack of employment opportunities in his home country, but hopes someday he can resolve that with the skills he gained at CareerTech.

Bangura: To create also job opportunities for others because we have like so many people here who graduate from school but they don’t have any job.

Rob: Work that Bangura believes is his pathway back home, appreciative for the help he’s been given that he can someday return by helping others.

Bangura: Technology now is more marketable and it can, it will help you for you to help go back and able to help others.

Rob: Changing a single life that could change an entire country one keystroke at a time.

Rob: Now, if you would like to learn more about the orphans of Sierra Leone, I was able to travel to the small West African country a few years back and visited the very orphanage where Bangura grew up. And I can tell you, it was eye-opening. Just head to and look under our valued added section for Sierra Leone.

Rob McClendon: You can keep up with us throughout the week. Just head to, where you can see more of any of our stories, read our reporters’ behind the scenes blogs, see what others are saying about us on Twitter and face the facts with our regular updates. So reach out and touch us anywhere at anytime.

Rob McClendon: Well, throughout the summer we’ve been bringing you stories about how education doesn’t necessarily end in May. This week we travel to the far reaches of the Oklahoma Panhandle on a student paleo expedition. Here’s our Alisa Hines.

Alisa Hines: You pick a little and a little bit more and just a little bit more to discover what might lie beneath the soil or not.

So it’s not fossil. Yeah, it is just sandy rock.

Alisa: Called ExplorOlogy, students are exploring science by doing. Jes Cole is the head of education at the Sam Noble Museum and says it’s all about dinosaurs.

Jes Cole: One of the ways that we know that kids absolutely love is paleontology and fossils and dinosaurs. And so that was really just a natural, I guess, merging – is kind of get kids excited about science through something they were already excited about dinosaurs and fossils and things.

Alisa: Which is why Mackenzie Cejka is here.

Mackenzie Cejka: Ever since I was a kid, I can remember having this fascination for dinosaurs and just prehistoric stuff.

Alisa: For Amanda Harding, it’s an adventure.

Amanda Harding: It’s like a treasure hunt. That’s the best way you can put it. It’s a treasure hunt. You don’t know what you’re gonna find but you know it’s gonna be cool.

Alisa: And it’s a dream come true for Clay Dominy.

Clay Dominy: I have always been interested in paleontology and dinosaurs in specific. And as soon as I moved to Oklahoma and my parents found out that there was a two-week paleontology camp for high schoolers, I immediately knew I had to get involved. I was really excited to come here and do this.

Alisa: Learning about science, but with a fun twist.

Cole: This is the Paleo Expedition Program. This program is really giving high school students the ability to engage and also be part of a field science experience before they go to college in the hopes that it might help them understand what it is to be a field scientist.

That just tells you it’s crocodile. OK.

Cole: This program I think is really vital and critical because it gives students the opportunity to do science and maybe in some of our small communities, especially in rural and our urban areas, they really don’t have the resources to provide students with this type of opportunity. So no other program that I know really gets the students outside in the field, not just studying or reading books or looking at PowerPoints or lectures. And not only do we get to go out in the field, but we get to go back to the museum in the collections and labs to visit scientists, see what they’re doing, taking part in the process and just really understanding what science is all about.

Alisa: Josie Gerrard is the outreach programs coordinator for the Sam Noble Museum and says we all do science.

Josie Garrard: The main goal of ExplorOlogy is really to bring science to Oklahomans in Oklahoma and to make it applicable, to make it real. And to really show students especially, that science is something that anybody can do. So I think it really does just kind of bridge the gap between the academic side of science and then the people. It kind of connects them and shows them how they work together and how they can be the same. So I think this is another thing that ExplorOlogy does is that it kind of turns on that switch and it lets people realize that “Hey, I’m already am a scientist so why not, who not go into science, why not pursue what I love?

Alisa: A love that can get pretty dirty.

Garrard: They are literally excavating. So they’re getting in there with their tools, they’re picking out bone or they’re clearing matrix – the soil around the bone -- to try and just clear it and see what’s what and where it is.

Student: I think I’ve got a bone right there.

Gerrard: It is very hands-on, and that’s the whole point of ExplorOlogy as a whole, but specifically Paleo Expedition, is that it is hands-on experience. It’s not sitting in a room listening to a presentation. It’s not reading a textbook or just watching it on TV. They are doing it essentially. They’re not just learning about science, they’re out there doing it. Right now they’re actually working on a quarry. This is a quarry that they have set up for different educational programs, but especially for ExplorOlogy. So they’re working with several scientists from the Sam Noble Museum as well as from Oklahoma State University, and they are just doing what scientists do. They’re just jumping on in there. They’re excavating not just for fossils, they’re excavating just around the site to see what’s there, and they’re really helping these scientists do their research.

Alisa: And the students are learning skills at the feet of the scientists.

Garrard: We have so many wonderful mentors who volunteer their time, scientists from the museum but also from other institutions across the state.

Alisa: Like Anne Weil, associate professor of anatomy and vertebrate paleontologist at Oklahoma State University, who says she gets just as much from the students as she is giving.

Anne Weil: The thing that keeps it fresh for me is other people’s just wonderment and excitement about it. To be reminded every day by people who are coming to this site how incredibly special, how incredibly neato this is. It helps me maintain my own enthusiasm.

Student: Wet and mildewing.

Alisa: And the students enjoy the interaction, too.

Student: In the cap right there.

Cejka: I love being able to hang out with the professors and the staff of Sam Noble and just getting to know them and learning all this information that I never would have come across unless I had actually joined the program.

Dominy: It’s a really great thing we can do because it’s one thing to get knowledge from someone who might have studied or may have picked up a trade a few years ago or something like that. But once you get to the professors who’ve done this their whole lives and are still doing it today, that really helps.

Alisa: Now, this dig is a bit unique to other dinosaur digs.

Weil: The site is really all entirely excavated by Oklahoma students, which makes it pretty unusual. There are a lot of dinosaur sites in the Morrison Formation, but this is the only one we can say is student-excavated. And the professionals here are teaching people how to do it. We’re not doing a lot of this excavation ourselves. That is partly the mission of the landowner actually. And the landowner is very dedicated to science education in Oklahoma. But the condition of that was really that we use it as an education site. And this is a very unique site in being sort of equally dedicated to education and to research.

Alisa: But the lessons aren’t only just about paleontology.

Garrard: This week they’ll be working with two other scientist mentors from the Sam Noble Museum. They’ll be working with Nick Czaplewski, who is the curator of vertebrate paleontology. And then they’re working with Dr. Katrina Menard, who is the curator of recent invertebrates. So she does modern invertebrates, so arthropods and insects, but she also teaches them about ecology and just how ecosystems, modern ecosystems, work.

Alisa: The program is so popular that some students return, like Amanda Harding.

Amanda Harding: We had a lot of fun last year and I just wanted to come back. You get a lot of experience, and I want to be a paleontologist, so that’s the best thing I could do. It takes a lot of work, but in the end it’s worth it all. And if you’re the one that uncovers that fossil, you’re the first one to ever see it.

Alisa: Now, this wouldn’t all be possible without the collaboration with the Whitten-Newman Foundation. Jeff Hargrave is their director of operations.

Jeff Hargrave: Initially, the foundation helped create ExplorOlogy and then sponsored all the programs. Since then, the ExplorOlogy program has taken off. And we, you know, assist with getting additional funding, and we provide this property for children to come and explore and dig for dinosaurs and all the -ologies. That’s kind of where we came up with the name ExplorOlogy -- is explore all the sciences. And we try to get as many kids out here and explore as much as we can, so they can learn as much as they can.

Alisa: Giving kids a chance to see a possible future for themselves.

Cole: They really wanted to provide that opportunity so students could see not only what science was but also maybe see it as a potential career path. We have had a lot of students go through the program, and recently we did do a survey that found that more than half of them are either in college right now or pursuing a science-related field in higher education. So we do feel that our program is not only very affective and fun for the kids now, but also has long-lasting effects.

Harding: It’s great! How many high school students can say they’ve done this? I mean, it’s a great experience.

Dominy: This has like fueled my fire to become a paleontologist.

Alisa: Digging through the past to find the right path to a future career.

Student: Yeah, right around here.

Rob McClendon: Next time on “Oklahoma Horizon,” we meet some Oklahoma military veterans cooking up new careers.

John Aquino: I started cooking when I was about 13 years old. Both of my parents worked, and if we wanted to eat we had to cook something.

Andrew Laughlin: Cooking’s always been my first choice, and because I was medically discharged, I had to have an action plan to fall back on.

Rob: Honoring our Oklahoma military veterans on Oklahoma’s show for the heartland, “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Rob: Well, that is going to wrap us up for today, but you can see more of any of our stories on our website at; you can listen to us on the go with our weekly podcast on iTunes; follow us throughout the week on Twitter at OkHorizonTV; or just become a “Horizon” fan on Facebook. I’m Rob McClendon. Thanks for including us in your day. Hope to see you back here next week.

Male Announcer: “Horizon” is made possible by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, helping good people grow good things. Thank you for watching “Oklahoma Horizon.”