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Executive Director Duane Smith Receives Honorary Doctorate

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

Duane Smith, Executive Director of the Oka’ Institute at East Central University, has been awarded an honorary doctorate of science from Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology (JOOUST) in Kenya. The honor, formally bestowed upon Smith at the University’s graduation ceremony on March 3, recognizes his recent contributions to international water management and policy as part of an ongoing exchange program between Oka’ and its sister academic institution, JOOUST’s Pi (Swahili word for water) Institute.

“I’m truly honored,” Smith says, “especially because this is perhaps the most rewarding partnership that I’ve ever been a part of.” Smith is just the third recipient of the doctorate distinction, joining a former Kenyan prime minister and a former president of the central African country. JOOUST is located in Bondo, Kenya, near the shores of Lake Victoria.

Last January, Smith and Dr. Christine Pappas, Department Chair of ECU’s Master of Science in Water Resource Policy and Management, accompanied select ECU master’s students to JOOUST for an extended visit as part of JOOUST’s Third International Short Course on Integrated Water Resources Management for Sustainable Livelihoods and Food Security. Students and faculty exchanged valuable learnings and experiences related to water management and sustainability in their respective countries.

ECU’s master’s program, established in 2016, trains students for careers, both domestic and international, in water resource management, decision-making and policy development. The two Institutes plan not only to continue, but expand, their partnership in furthering water sustainability concepts and their related economic and social benefits. JOOUST students and faculty are planning a reciprocal visit to ECU in the near future.

Part of the Nile River basin, Lake Victoria is Africa's largest lake by area, the world's largest tropical lake, and the world's second-largest freshwater lake by surface area after North America's Lake Superior. The shallow lake, which intersects three countries, and surrounding ecoregion is a vulnerable resource that provides enormous economic benefits to the region.

“While the Lake Victoria watershed shares many similarities with much of Oklahoma — frequent drought and the complexities in getting water supply to our communities and rural areas in need — here the issues of human well-being, food security, and social equity are at the forefront. These are goals that can actually be achieved, at least in part, through sustainable water research, stewardship and related initiatives, which are a focus of JOOUST. We’re only beginning to learn about and expand such concepts in Oklahoma through work of the Oka’ Institute and other responsible institutions,” he points out.

His work in support of the exchange program is just the latest of Smith’s overseas water-related accomplishments. In December 2003, while serving as Executive Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB), he traveled to Israel to facilitate discussion on mutual water issues with Palestine and Jordan on behalf of the Center for Peace at the University of Oklahoma. After retiring from the OWRB in 2010, he served the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as Chief of the Water and Infrastructure Section of the Joint Programs Integration Office in Kabul, Afghanistan to facilitate development of much-needed water infrastructure. The program provided billions of dollars in assistance to facilitate self-sufficiency of the Afghan people in the development and management of their limited water supplies.

For more information on the Smith’s award or the ongoing Oka’ Institute/JOOUST partnership, contact the Oka’ Institute at or 580.559.5151


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