Choctaw Nation receives two Regents Business Partnerships Excellence Awards 

Partnerships with Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology garner praise from Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education 

DURANT, Okla. - The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education honored two Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma partnerships at the 2024 Regents Business Partnership Awards. 

The annual awards ceremony is held to celebrate successful partnerships that encourage access to higher education. Partnerships that are recognized receive a matching $500 grant from the State Regents’ Economic Development Grant to put toward the tuition of an employee or business being recognized, a paid internship for a student or associate of a business being recognized, a faculty externship or equipment, material and supplies to further the partnership. 

Choctaw Nation Small Business Development received an award alongside Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s Oklahoma Small Business Development Center for their ongoing partnership. Both programs aim to create job growth and economic prosperity in Southeast Oklahoma through one-on-one advising, business planning and training. They have partnered on events and training sessions, as well as working closely with each other through mutual referrals and co-advisement of clients.  

“We are incredibly honored to receive this award alongside the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center,” said Billy Hamilton, director of Choctaw Nation Small Business Development. “Both programs strive to create economic sustainability in our region, so this partnership was a natural fit that allowed us to extend our network and our impact. We are grateful for the partnership and for this award, and we look forward to continuing to work together.” 

Since its inception, Choctaw Nation Small Business Development has been involved in 205 business expansions, 311 new businesses and the creation of 1,596 new jobs. 

Choctaw Nation (CNO) also received an award for its partnership with Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology (OSU-IT) that offers Choctaw Casinos & Resorts food and beverage associates culinary training and college course credit. 

The program, which began in July 2023, was designed specifically for casino and resort associates in a collaborative effort between CNO and OSU-IT. Prior to starting their new roles at one of Choctaw Casinos & Resorts’ 42 restaurants, new associates receive a week of virtual and hands-on learning through OSU-IT culinary training program to help get them acclimated in their new role. 

After week one, employees transition to their work locations to continue learning. Ten weeks later, they begin taking in-depth courses in the second-tier level of training, which includes advanced cooking skills, techniques and terminology. At the end of second-tier training, associates receive a co-branded CNO and OSU-IT certificate. 

If associates decide to pursue further accreditation, certification, or degree programs with OSU-IT, they will receive prior learning credit toward their educational goals. Choctaw Nation casinos are the first to implement a program of this nature in Oklahoma. 

“This award is a testament to the effort and attention to detail Choctaw Nation and Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology associates put into creating the culinary program,” said Heidi Grant, Choctaw Nation Executive Officer of Gaming and Hospitality. “It’s an honor to see this partnership receive recognition, and we are grateful to OSU-IT for working with us to create a program we hope will empower our associates and give them a foundation they can build upon.”