Overlooking J.T. Nickel Preserve near Tahlequah, OK
J.T. Nickel Preserve Overlooking J.T. Nickel Preserve near Tahlequah, OK © © 2015 David Joshua Jennings

Stories in Oklahoma

Oklahoma Conservation Leadership Academy

Developing passionate leaders to ensure a sustainable future for Oklahoma.


Thank you for your interest and support of the Oklahoma Conservation Leadership Academy (OCLA). In efforts of refining the program, OCLA is temporarily on hold and we will not be recruiting for the class of 2020-21. We apologize for any inconvenience. Don’t worry though, the program will be back up and running next year for the class of 2021-22! We look forward to rolling out an enhanced version of OCLA and anticipate recruitment for next year’s class to begin in the spring of 2021. Feel free to reach out to Meghan Raleigh if you have any questions.  

Why is the program being refined? We are currently revising our strategic plan and taking a critical look at how we can improve OCLA to achieve maximum results and enhance participant experience. This process will include conversations and planning with our staff and past graduates of the program. It is because of participant feedback and support that OCLA has been an incredible success since its launch in 2016 and we are eager to continue that momentum with new and improved curriculum and events in 2021!

What is OCLA?

Do you believe having a healthy environment is important? Do you believe that more could be done in Oklahoma to incorporate innovative conservation practices in both cities and rural areas? 

The Oklahoma Conservation Leadership Academy (OCLA) is a year-long program consisting of field trips and educational opportunities to learn about science-based conservation efforts throughout the state. Each year, up to 40 individuals are selected for OCLA from a competitive application process. Members are challenged to steward an innovative and environmentally sustainable approach within their own community, home, or workplace.

The goal of OCLA is to inspire innovation and to cultivate meaningful and lasting relationships that support solutions which provide benefit for both people and nature. By utilizing nature-based solutions, we can support the growth, sustainability and economic vitality of Oklahoma.

I joined OCLA to raise awareness in my industry, make an impact in my community, and become a champion for responsible design.

Owner/Architect for WP Design Group, 2018-19 OCLA member

We are so excited to announce the 2019-2020 OCLA Class IV Members!

  • Kyle Arthur - Director of Corporate HSEChesapeake Energy Corporation, Oklahoma City
  • Jay Barnett - Retired, Tulsa
  • Kim Bishop - Staff Attorney, Oklahoma State School Boards Association, Edmond
  • Brit Bolerjack - Young Clergy Network Director, Oklahoma City First Church of the Nazarene, Oklahoma City
  • Emmlie Bragg - Land Management Agronomist, Choctaw Nation, Hugo
  • Steven Copley - Member Technical Staff III Specialist, Verizon, Tulsa
  • Terry Craghead  - Owner, Fertile Ground Cooperative, Oklahoma City
  • Mike Crutcher - Retired Physician, Edmond
  • John Darling, - Nature Center Supervisor, City of Broken Arrow Parks & Recreation Department, Broken Arrow
  • John Dillingham - Environmental Coordinator, Dillingham Insurance, Oklahoma City
  • Lucas Dillingham - Risk Management Consultant, Dillingham Insurance, Stillwater
  • Leslyn Dillow - Researcher, Oklahoma City
  • Kevin Drees - Director of Animal Collections, Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden, Edmond
  • Megan Fitch - Systems Engineer, Boeing, Oklahoma City
  • Tim Gallegly - Attorney, Crowe & Dunlevy, Edmond
  • Andrew Hackler - Environmental Specialist, ONEOK, Tulsa
  • Christopher Hill - Assistant Professor - Department of Sociology, University of Oklahoma, Edmond
  • Courtney Hurst - Owner, Fertile Ground Cooperative, Oklahoma City
  • Daniel Johnson - President, Freestone Economics, Oklahoma City
  • Jayesh Kuriakose - Engineer, Dell, Oklahoma City
  • Jordan Malwick - CEO, High Spring Land Company, Edmond
  • John McCreight - Environmental Coordinator, Western Farmers Electric Coop, Rural Seminole County
  • Kevin Mink - Urban Soil Health Specialist, Oklahoma County Conservation District, Oklahoma City
  • Trish Morris - Community Development Project Manager, Ideal Homes, Nicoma Park
  • Nikki Nice - City Council Member, City of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City
  • Matt Payne - Writer/Photographer/Editor/Producer, 405 Magazine, Oklahoma City
  • Scott Phillips - Founder/Principal, Civic Ninjas, Tulsa
  • Jo Reese - Group Sales Associate, Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation, Oklahoma City
  • Matthew Sanstra - Virtual Estimator Supervisor, Cox Communications, Tulsa
  • Daniel Scott - Owner, The Eight Point, LLC, Tulsa
  • Aric Senters - Production Team Lead, Paycom, Oklahoma City
  • Tony Stancampiano - Associate Professor of Biology, Oklahoma City University, Oklahoma City
  • Angelina Stancampiano - Naturalist, Sequoyah State Park, Tahlequah
  • Darcy Stephens - Public Relations Coordinator, Cherokee Nation, Tulsa
  • Mary Waller - Director, Oklahoma Monarch and Pollinator Collaborative, Tulsa
  • Buddy Whitcomb - Field Service Manager, Cox Communications, Norman
  • Emma Yeung - Owner, Little Leaf Playgarden, Oklahoma City
OCLA Class IV begins a year in conservation leadership.
OCLA Class IV OCLA Class IV begins a year in conservation leadership. © Larissa Balzer/TNC


Check out some examples of the more than 20 projects that were a result from the class of 2017-18.


Local real estate investor Elise Kilpatrick of Tulsa owns a building that is prone to flooding. Before OCLA, she was exploring costly solutions. During the OCLA program, she was inspired to explore natural solutions and ended up installing a series of water catchment gardens instead. The parking lot was sloped to drain storm water to a series of gardens with native plants that would catch and filter the water, then cascade into a second garden. In the future, Elise aims to add trees to the gardens.


Tim Soweke, OKC attorney for Crowe & Dunlevy, recognized that one of his most valued natural assets in the city, the OK River, was not being properly protected and that there was a gap in its long-term protection plan regarding clean ups, water quality, and environmental justice and access. Tim decided that he could make the greatest change by deploying his skills as an environmental attorney and experienced environmental grants manager to launch a new 501(c)(3), Friends of the OK River.


Bonnie Patterson of OKC was inspired to implement a waste-reduction program at her business, Kids Club Learning Center. She eliminated all Styrofoam and most paper products, and instead, is now using real dishware and utensils. She also installed electric hand dryers in the bathrooms to eliminate the need for paper towels. After purchasing supplies and paying staff for the extra dishwashing workload, the daycare realized a monthly net savings of $306 which will go towards the purchase of a new commercial dishwasher.