Will Focht, Associate Professor

Ph.D., Environmental Science, Oklahoma State University, 1995

Research Interests
Environmental Sustainability Education

Environmental Policy
Watershed Planning 
Political Participation


Dr. Focht is associate professor emeritus of political science at Oklahoma State University.  He retired after 23 years of service on the faculty and 29 years of teaching at OSU on September 1, 2017.

From January 2012 until June 2016, Dr. Focht served as the director of the Graduate Program in Fire and Emergency Management Administration, which awards both MS and PhD degrees.  He is one of the five founding faculty members of the program, established in 1996.

From August 2002 until August 2011, he worked in OSU’s administration as director of these four programs:

  • Oklahoma Water Resources Research Institute.  OWRRI is one of 54 state and territorial water research institutes in the United States created by federal law in 1964.  Each institute is charged with sponsoring water research and education that serves the host State’s needs.  The funds to provide these services are provided by Congress through the US Geological Survey.  The Institute awarded more than $900,000 to researchers at OSU, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Tulsa, and East-Central University during his tenure as director.  He also founded an external advisory board comprised of 25 leaders of various public and private water management institutions in Oklahoma.
  • Institute for Sustainable Environments.  ISE was a program housed with OSU’s Division of Research and Technology Transfer.  Dr. Focht managed a competitive interdisciplinary research program aimed at sustainable development.  ISE sponsored annual competitions among OSU inter-college research teams to receive funding for the development of research proposals to submit to external funding agencies.
  • Environmental Science Graduate Program.  This interdisciplinary program is housed within the Graduate College.  The program awards both MS and PhD degrees and offers courses at both the Stillwater and Tulsa campuses.  As Director, he revised and expanded its curriculum to include five specializations, grew its enrollment, assembled an external advisory board, created an alumni association, revitalized its student association, sponsored several awards (teaching, research and service), instituted an annual awards ceremony, and standardized its policies and procedures.
  • Certificate Program in Environmental Studies.  This undergraduate program is housed within the College of Arts and Sciences.  The program enrollment grew from zero to more than 40 during Dr. Focht’s tenure as director.

From 1997-2002, he was an assistant professor of political science focusing on environmental policy, community relations, and policy analysis.  From 1994-1997, he was an assistant professor of geology focusing on hydrogeology, risk assessment, and environmental regulation.

Before joining the faculty at OSU, he worked nine years as an environmental engineer for the US Environmental Protection Agency in Atlanta, Dallas, and Washington, DC in its water, hazardous waste, and Superfund programs.  Prior to that, he worked eight years for environmental consulting firms based in Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Florida.

Academic Background

Dr. Focht holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from Ohio University, where he also completed two years of post-graduate study in Microbiology.  He then earned a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Vanderbilt University.  Finally, he earned a Master of Arts degree in Political Science and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Environmental Science from Oklahoma State University.


Dr. Focht teaches graduate courses at OSU in public policy analysis, public program evaluation, environmental risk analysis, emergency and disaster risk analysis, conservation and sustainable development, environmental law and regulation, safety regulation, community relations, research publication and presentation, and pedagogy.  His undergraduate courses have included public policy, American government, and introduction to geology.  He also taught an environmental and safety regulation course at the University of Oklahoma’s campus in Tulsa.

He has taught graduate courses and seminars at several international venues as well, including the National Fire Academy in Cheonan, Republic of Korea; Istanbul Technical University in Istanbul, Turkey; Prince of Songkla University in Hat Yai, Thailand; and various locations in Costa Rica.


His research focused on interdisciplinary education, watershed management, risk assessment, and stakeholder involvement in decision-making that involves risk to human health and the environment.  His research projects, totaling $4.5 million, have been funded by the National Science Foundation, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Department of Energy, National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Geological Survey, US Department of Agriculture, US Department of Defense, National Council for Science and the Environment, Integrated Petroleum Environmental Consortium, and Oklahoma Water Resources Board.  He has delivered more than 50 presentations at professional conferences in Norway, England, Venezuela, Brazil, Korea, Canada, and throughout the U.S.  He co-authored one book on public participation and is coauthoring another on sustainability education, and published more than three dozen journal articles and book chapters on topics related to his research.

Professional Service

His professional service included leadership positions in various environmental organizations.  He was elected President of the National Institutes for Water Resources, the national organization of state and territorial water research institutes, from 2009-10, as well as an officer on its Board of Directors from 2008-11.  He was a member of the national Council of Environmental Deans and Directors and served as chair of its Curriculum Committee, which led a four-year study of US environmental program curricula that identified sustainable development at the human-nature interface as a core mission of the field.  He also served as co-chair of the Sustainable Human and Environmental Systems Round Table sponsored by the Interdisciplinary Environmental Association, which has conducted 14 workshops since 2009 in the US and Canada on supradisciplinary, complexity-based sustainability education.  He served as an associate editor and member of the editorial board of the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, the flagship journal in the interdisciplinary environmental field.  He served as a peer reviewer of manuscripts for a dozen journals and two book publishers and of research grant proposals for the National Science Foundation.

He also served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Oklahoma Academy for State Goals (including one year on its Executive Committee), which sponsors public Town Hall meetings to formulate policy recommendations that are delivered to the Oklahoma Governor and Legislature.  Finally, he is a graduate of Class XXI of Leadership Oklahoma.


He was born in Dayton, Ohio and graduated valedictorian in 1969 from Woodrow Wilson High School at the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Orphan’s home in Xenia, Ohio.  His interests/hobbies include wine, piano, golf, and philosophy.  He is married to Dr. Toni Shaklee, Assistant Vice President for Sponsored Research at OSU.  His daughter, Dr. Kendrea (Focht) Garand, is an assistant professor in speech-language pathology at the University of South Alabama in Mobile.

Recent Publications

Mike Reiter, Will Focht, Paul Barresi, Susan Gill, Richard Smardon, Susan Baker, Kimberly Reiter, Eric Fitch, Terry Rolfe, and Sue Bumpous. "Making Education for Sustainability Work on Campus: The proposals of the Roundtable on Environmental Systems and Sustainability." In Sustainable Development at Universities: New Horizons, ed. Walter Leal. Frankfurt, Germany: Peter Lang Scientific Publishers.