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TU Alumnus Nick Doctor: Writing the Headlines of History

Nick Doctor does not stand on the sidelines of history. He works to shape the future headlines in Oklahoma history books. As a 2008 TU alumnus with a degree in history and political science, Doctor learned the importance of being an engaged citizen. Now as Tulsa’s chief of community development and policy, he works alongside Tulsans to design and implement inclusive and effective policies that write the next exciting chapter in Tulsa’s history.

Working for the 918

After graduating from TU, Doctor served as council aide to a fresh-faced newly elected city councilor — G.T. Bynum. “I got to know him both as a person, a man of character and someone who has the best intentions at heart,” Doctor said. Eight years later, Bynum was sworn in as the 40th mayor of Tulsa. His inspiring vision was contagious, and Doctor found a history-defining story to help write. “G.T.’s goal was for Tulsa to be a city with high expectations, capable of meeting those expectations and a city government that was capable of delivering on those expectations for our community.”

Photo by The Tulsa World

As chief of community development and policy, Doctor focuses on the big, overarching ideas for the city, which often means growing new areas of city involvement like immigration. One of Mayor Bynum’s key areas of focus is on increasing Tulsa’s population – and the growth of our immigrant community has been central to Tulsa’s growth in the past decade. Doctor and his team asked the question, “How do we welcome immigrants to Tulsa?”  This led to the New Tulsans Initiative which seeks to offer pathways for socially responsible immigrant integration and to foster connections between immigrants and long-term Tulsans.

Vision Tulsa

Doctor’s job is wide in scope and also includes implementing Vision Tulsa, a public sales tax passed in 2016 with three main components.

  1. Public safety was enhanced by hiring 160 police officers and 60 firefighters.
  2. Oklahoma’s first dedicated transit tax allowed Tulsa to be one of the first 10 cities in the country to implement bus rapid transit routes.
  3. There will be 37 economic development projects running simultaneously.

“Mayor Bynum’s charge was to get 80 percent of those projects done in the first five years of Vision Tulsa, and we are on track to meet that right now,” Doctor said. “We’ve seen firsthand the impact that a project like the BOK Center can have in revitalizing our downtown.  Vision Tulsa’s investment in our river, expanding the Gilcrease Museum, building USA BMX’s national headquarters, and so many other catalytic projects will be a key next wave of growth for our city.”

Small town boy finds love in the (sort of) big city

It’s easy to assume this Tulsa flag-waving city official is a Tulsa native, but Doctor hales from Casper, Wyoming. “I was trying to desperately escape the Wyoming winters,” he laughed. TU was recruiting heavily for International Baccalaureate graduates, and Doctor wanted a location “small enough where you could develop those close personal relationships but large enough where I could get that big city experience.”

The first day on campus, Doctor knew he wanted to major in history. “As someone who is a history buff, so much of how decisions are made and what is possible politically is predicated upon what’s occurred in the past,” he explained. “You can determine both how people will think, act and the things that will matter to them by studying history.”

What took him by surprise was his affinity for political science, the major where he would have two life-changing revelations.

  1. In “Selecting the President,” Doctor experienced his first politics class, and Professor Elvin Lim “gave this beautifully poignant lecture on how our presidential system had shifted over our country’s history – and the impact that made on the individual who was ultimately selected. It was an issue I had a shallow knowledge of, but he exposed this intricacy of how those underlying systems shaped our country’s decisions. I realized I wanted to be a part of helping how bigger decisions are made.”
  2. Politics stirs emotions from anger to fervor, but rarely is politics the backdrop of romance. Doctor found himself bumping heads with TU political science student Mana Tahaie in a political science class. “We got into a debate, and she crushed me. That was our first introduction,” Doctor smiled. “For me, I thought ‘You’re a brilliant person who I want to get to know better.’ The best thing to come out of my time at TU was meeting Mana.” Not long after, they were married.

Follow in Nick’s footsteps. Learn about TU’s Department of History and Department of Political Science.

Getting out of the comfort zone

Travel not only inspires a spirit of industrious adventure but also tests self-reliance and an ability to operate in an unknown environment. In his last semester at TU, Doctor studied abroad in Amman, Jordan. “If you’re going to study abroad, choose somewhere that is different enough – and makes you uncomfortable enough – that you’re pushed to learn new elements of yourself, and are able to challenge your assumptions about the world,” he advised.

Traveling through Egypt, Syria, Israel and Palestine greatly altered Doctor’s world perceptions. “I went to the Middle East with a number of stereotypes, shaped by where I’d lived and how the Middle East had been portrayed.  After six months, I’d had nearly all of those stereotypes completely shattered – and in ways that gave me a more nuanced appreciation and respect for those I’d interacted with and learned from.”

Learn more about studying abroad.

Why Tulsa?

In between his time with the city council and his job with Mayor Bynum, Doctor worked in government affairs for the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce. It was a lesson in all things political. “I did everything from being a registered state lobbyist at the state capitol, to helping manage our political action committees on the local and state levels, to interfacing with our federal delegation, to helping build regional coalitions around some key policy issues to running ballot campaigns,” Doctor said.

Starting off in an entry level position, it only took six years for him to rise to senior vice president of government affairs for the chamber. “I loved every bit of it. I was learning about every level of politics, while also developing rich relationships in Tulsa,” he said.

From economic development to politics, Doctor has been a tireless advocate for Tulsa. He jokes that the unofficial city motto is “I only meant to be here a couple years,” but that Tulsa is a city that sucks you in with promise and opportunity.

From the Tulsa Arts District to Gathering Place, Tulsa continues to flourish and attract businesses and young professionals. “I’m so fortunate to be a part of building up a great city that’s on the upswing, with a community that rallies around you. Tulsa is the perfect place for every University of Tulsa graduate to stay and build both their career and the next stage of their life,” he said.

As the pages of history turn, people can choose to live in the margins or write the wording for future generations. As for Nick Doctor, he always has a pen in hand.