OSU graduate student’s upbringing on tribal land, education lead to orange passion

Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources natural resources

Miko Brandon

Being raised on Chickasaw land and around the Blue River played a significant role in Miko Brandon’s life in south central Oklahoma. Hunting, fishing and being outdoors ultimately transitioned to studying the environment and water preservation at Oklahoma State University where he earned his bachelor’s degree and is now pursuing a master’s.

“I would definitely say the land is my passion,” he said. “But the more I study and the more I learn, I think ‘well maybe my passion is people.’ I want to help people through protecting and educating them about the environment.”

Before attending OSU, Brandon served five years in the United States Navy as an aircraft engine mechanic. He wasn't sure what degree to pursue when he arrived at OSU.

“I was planning to study engineering but it's not something I was passionate about and so I started looking at other options and wanted to do something that involved nature and being outside,” he said.

While pursuing his undergraduate degree, he met now retired natural resource ecology and management professor, Dr. Thomas Kuzmic, who influenced Brandon’s interest in forestry. Brandon completed a bachelor’s degree in natural resource ecology and management with a focus in forestry along with a minor in solar sciences in 2022.

Nearing the end of his undergraduate studies, his curiosity about water conservation led him to OSU’s graduate program in environmental sciences. Through donor generosity in the form of scholarships, he has been able to pursue a graduate degree in environmental sciences to further his interest and studies.

On November 9 of this year, Brandon received the Kelly Payne and Dave Newcomb Veterans Scholarship, which honors OSU veteran graduate students for their dedication, service and academic achievement.

Vincent Rivera, veterans success coordinator, presents Miko Brandon with the Kelly Payne and Dave Newcomb Veterans Scholarship on Nov. 9, 2023.

“As an undergrad, I had the G.I. Bill, but now that's not the case, so scholarships have been a great support and a great help for being able to pursue my graduate degree,” he said.

His graduate program offers a project in collaboration with the Chickasaw Nation, which involves analyzing the Lake Texoma watershed. Brandon instantly felt a connection to the project.

“We still live on what's called a restricted Indian land allotment and so the Blue River runs right through the middle of it. My whole life, and now probably for six generations since removal, pretty much everything we do revolves around that river,” Brandon said. “The Blue River is one of the only two last free flowing rivers in Oklahoma.”

Participating in this project has offered Brandon an opportunity to use his education to give back to the land and people who raised him.

“The initial drivers were ‘how can we protect this place?’ And now that's expanding to ‘what are ways I can help improve or protect water quality through natural resource management?” Brandon said.

Obtaining a graduate degree is a great step in Brandon’s journey as he pursues his orange passion of teaching people how to protect the land and helping others. After graduation, he hopes to work for the Chickasaw Nation and assist with water management.

Brandon is grateful for the support of donors who make it possible for students to pursue their passions.

“I hope donors see that their donations for these students actually pay off,” Brandon said. “We're not just getting degrees, we’re implementing them. We're using them.”

Miko Brandon Group