Dr. Mickey Hepner is an economist and Dean of the University of Central Oklahoma?s College of Business. His research has been published by several national policy think tanks including the Urban Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute. In Oklahoma, he serves on the Boards of Directors for the Oklahoma Academy and the Oklahoma Council for Economic Education. In 2007, he was named the Oklahoma Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Dr. Hepner has a keen understanding of both the issues facing Oklahoma and the mission of the Oklahoma Academy. He has been instrumental in successfully carrying-out a number of Town Halls and implementing the resulting recommendations. We're are proud to feature Dr. Hepner in our December 2016 Spotlight!
December 2016 Board Member Spotlight: Mickey Hepner, Ph.D., Dean of the UCO College of Business
You've been on the Oklahoma Academy Board for 8 years. Why did you originally become involved with the organization?
I loved that the Oklahoma Academy brought together so many business, government, and education leaders together to help build a better Oklahoma. That is a passion I share, and just had to get involved.
What excites you the most about the Oklahoma Academy?s mission?
Oklahoma Academy members come from different locations and different occupations. We have different perspectives, and different ideologies. Yet what brings us together is a common belief that Oklahoma works best when Oklahomans work together. This state needs us to bring issues forward, advance civil discourse, and build consensus around the ideas that will propel this state forward.
What do you find most challenging about supporting the organization?s mission?
We are in an era of hyperpartisanship, where too often people see those who disagree with them as inherently flawed or evil. Too often, our leaders (and our citizens) are too eager to cast blame than to solve problems. In this time, the Oklahoma Academy stands out, trying to pull our state together around common-sense ideas, while others in the state are more interested in pulling us apart.
What do you wish other people knew about the Oklahoma Academy?
I wish more people knew about the difference that the Oklahoma Academy has made in this state the last 15 years. We have helped shape the conversation and policies on a number of issues, including education, health, mental health, health care, transportation, crime, energy, water, workforce development, tribal partnerships, and most recently, state budget priorities. With each issue, the Oklahoma Academy has elevated the conversation, and proposed substantive recommendations to move this state forward.
How do you think the Oklahoma Academy helps improve our state?s landscape?
The Oklahoma Academy contributes to our state?s progress by providing factual information and facilitating the formation of consensus on common-sense solutions to our state?s problems. No other organization is able to bring together individuals from across the political spectrum and command the respect from state leaders that the Oklahoma Academy does.
In your opinion, what Town Hall topic has been the most important or interesting?
As an economist, the most fascinating Town Hall topic we have tackled was the most recent one, on the state?s budget priorities. Seeing how a diverse group of Oklahomans could come to a consensus on the state?s budget priorities was inspiring, especially given the tone of public discourse in recent years.
You have been very involved with Oklahoma Academy events over the years; which is most memorable?
The annual Academy Salute is one of my favorite events to attend each year. Not only do we get to raise money in support of the Academy, but we get to share an evening of fun, food, and reconnecting with our friends from across the state.
As you look ahead to the next several years, what do you see for the Oklahoma Academy?
I see the Oklahoma Academy becoming even more important to the future of the state. These are trying times in Oklahoma. We have a state economy that continues to languish due to low energy prices. We have a public sector that is struggling to provide the education, health care, roads, and prisons that our citizens are demanding. We have a political system that all too often appeals to our basest desires instead of our boldest dreams.
But we can be better. The Oklahoma Academy is the organization in this state best situated to bring Oklahomans together to focus on solutions instead of slogans, to focus on our shared ideals and not our differences, to focus on tomorrow instead of today. This state needs a vibrant Oklahoma Academy to help propel us forward.
What public policy issue do you think is most important for Oklahoma and/or would you like to see the Oklahoma Academy take on?
I think election reform is a critical, but not well understood, issue facing our state. Our election system effectively incentivizes candidates to focus their appeal on the most ideological members of their political party, to the exclusion of independents and those in the opposing party. Essentially, our election process encourages partisanship and discourages bipartisan cooperation. By changing the way we elect our leaders, we can change the incentives they face, thereby promoting more bipartisan cooperation.
What is your hope for the Oklahoma Academy in the future?
I hope that the Oklahoma Academy continues to be a significant contributor to civil discourse in the state and and make positive contributions to public policy. To do this effectively we need to grow our membership and enhance our influence with state policymakers.