Our Approach

Ideas to Action

Our methods for creating engagement start with education–you can find research on almost every issue in Oklahoma public policy in our online library–and they move into motion with our Town Hall events, where citizens can discuss policy and discover solutions, together.

Change Through Collaboration

Oklahomans are stronger together, and after reaching consensus through the discourse at a Town Hall event, we empower citizens to lobby leaders to enact the necessary change, bringing the civic engagement plan of action full circle.

Our History

Oklahoma’s first Republican governor, Henry Bellmon, was surrounded by top officials who were Democrats when he was first elected. This challenge, coupled with the fact that Bellmon truly saw himself as a representative of the people of Oklahoma and sought their engagement in the development of public policy, led to the founding of the Oklahoma Academy for State Goals by Bellmon in 1967.

Bellmon knew that a well-informed populace with the confidence to approach and engage their representatives was necessary for a strong, successful state, and he saw the need for an independent, nonpartisan, inclusive public policy organization to bring that level of enlightenment to fruition…and then continue to grow it throughout the years.

The Oklahoma Academy has remained focused on strengthening public policy through citizen engagement and has continued to uphold Henry Bellmon’s vision, which often stands in stark opposition to divisive and lobby-centered modern politics.


Our Story

The Oklahoma Academy underwent a revitalization in 1985 and used a traditional conference format to form recommendations addressing critical public policy issues facing the state until 2000. The adoption of our current Town Hall model occurred in 2001, and has only strengthened our mission of fostering collaboration, even as most modern politics get more divisive and specialized.

Our Mission

Raise Awareness of the Issues, Provide Non-Partisan, Evidenced-Based Research and Hold Space for Civil Discourse and Consensus Building.

Our Staff

Julie Knutson

Julie Knutson

President and CEO

April Maddry

April Maddry

Membership & Program Manager

Lynn Thompson

Lynn Thompson

Communications & Development Director

Board of Directors

2024 Officers of the Board

  • Board Chair &Town Hall Chair – Michael Neal, CCE, CCD, President & CEO, Tulsa Regional Chamber, Tulsa
  • Immediate Past Chair – Lee Denney, DVM, Treasurer-Elect, Payne County, Cushing
  • Vice Chair & Treasurer/Secretary –Chris Meyers, General Manager & CEO, OK Association of Electric Cooperatives, OKC
  • Board Governance Vice President & Co-Development Vice President – Darryl Schmidt, Chief Executive Officer, BancFirst
  • Investment Vice President – David Nimmo, President and CEO, Chickasaw Nation Industries, Norman
  • Co-Development Vice President – Dan Boren, Secretary of Commerce, Chickasaw Nation
  • Membership Vice President & Regional Team Leader – Michael Gordon, External Affairs Manager, PSO, Tulsa
  • Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Vice President – Valerie Thompson, Ph.D., President & CEO, Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City

Executive Committee Members of the Board

Howard Barnett, Jr., of Counsel, Barnett Family Law Firm, Tulsa, Town Hall Chair

Hon. Lee Denney, D.V.M., Treasurer, Payne County, Cushing, Immediate Past Chair

Margaret Erling, CEO, Erling and Associates, Tulsa

John Feaver, Ph.D., President Emeritus, University of Science & Arts, of Oklahoma, Chickasha

Michael Gordon, Manager, External Affairs– Northeast OK, PSO/AEP Company, Tulsa, Membership Vice President

Hon. AJ Griffin, Ed.D., President & CEO, Potts Family Foundation, Oklahoma City

Hollye Hunt, J.D., Chief Government Affairs Officer, The University of Oklahoma, Norman

Rachel Hutchings, Principal, Chart Consulting, Skiatook

Barry Koonce , VP & Chief Govt. Affairs Officer, American Fidelity Assurance Co., Oklahoma City

Chris Meyers, General Manager & CEO, Oklahoma Association of, Electric Cooperatives, Oklahoma City, Vice Chair, Treasurer/Secretary

Hon. Ken Miller, Ph.D., Vice President of Public and Regulatory Affairs, OG&E, Oklahoma City

Michael Neal, CCE, CCD, President & CEO, Tulsa Regional Chamber, Tulsa, Chairman of the Board

David L. Nimmo, President/CEO, Chickasaw Nation Industries, Norman, Investment Vice President

Stephanie Regan , Director of Corporate Citizenship, AAON, Tulsa

Lana Reynolds, President, Seminole State College, Seminole

Darryl Schmidt, CEO, BancFirst, Oklahoma City, Board Governance Vice President, Development Vice President

Andy Sherrer, Regional President , First United Bank, Norman

Hon. Kris Steele, Executive Director, The Education and Employment Ministry (TEEM), Oklahoma City

Valerie Thompson, Ph.D., President & CEO, Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Vice President

At Large Board Members

Hon. Chris Benge, Vice President of Operations, OSU Institute of Technology, Okmulgee

Hon. Dan Boren, Secretary of Commerce, the Chickasaw Nation, Oklahoma City, Development Vice President

Larry Briggs, Banking Consultant, Shawnee

John Budd, Chief Operating Officer, George Kaiser Family Foundation, Oklahoma City

Teresa Meinders Burkett, Partner, Conner & Winters, LLP, Tulsa

Leah Christopher, Public Affairs Manager, Grand River Dam Authority, Oklahoma City

Michael Davis, J.D., Ph.D., Special Assistant to the President for Compliance, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Durant

Hon. Joe Dorman, CEO, Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, Oklahoma City

W. Jeff Greenlee, President, NBC Oklahoma Bank, Altus

John Harper, Tulsa

Hon. Kim Holland, Principal, East Consultant Group, Tulsa

Dwight Hughes, Superintendent & CEO, Autry Technology Center, Enid

Craig Knutson, Chief Retirement Officer, The Knutson Estate, Norman, Town Hall Research Chair

Karen Langdon, Attorney, Tulsa

Matthew Morgan, Special Envoy, the Chickasaw Nation, Ada

Adrienne Nobles, APR, Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs, University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond

Craig Perry, Manager of Govt. Relations Oklahoma, ONE Gas, Oklahoma City

Mark Schell, President, Security State Bank of  Oklahoma, Seminole

James J. Sluss, Jr., Ph.D., Regents’ Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, The University of Oklahoma, Tulsa

Sara Jane Smallwood-Cocke, Senior Govt. Relations Strategist, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Durant

Craig Stephenson, City Manager, Ponca City

Clayton Taylor, Principal, The Taylor Group, Oklahoma City

Richard Wansley, Ph.D., Principal Consultant, Advocate Oklahoma, LLC, Tulsa

Bailey Perkins Wright, MPA, Community Investor, The Boeing Company, Oklahoma City