Amidst massive clothing sales and a temporary bookstore shutdown, Oklahoma Christian University students waited in anticipation for the new store, operated by Tree of Life, which opened March 1.
Oklahoma Christian decided to implement the bookstore company change in late December of 2017. According to acting manager Katie Wright, the Tree of Life Bookstore company provides additional avenues for carrying ethically sourced brands.
“We are already carrying some bigger name brands like Nike and we’re looking to expand our Nike line,” Wright said. “We have our own brand called On Mission with Tree of Life where they partner with an organization in Haiti where all the materials are bought in the United States and shipped over to Haiti.”
According to Store Operations Manager Evan Doyle, the Tree of Life bookstore company prides itself on affordable pricing and giving spirit. He said the story behind the Tree of Life is a direct reflection of the company’s motives.
“On Mission is a product line—we try to keep it affordable,” Doyle said. “It’s priced similarly or cheaper than the similar products at the big college bookstores at the University of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State University and some of those schools. But, it’s really got this amazing story behind it about how were able to give these people in Haiti a living wage and really help them develop themselves, their lives and their families.”
Other than providing fair jobs to their employees in Haiti, Tree of Life aims to find additional ways to respect their employees. According to Doyle, the workers for On Mission and Tree of Life are the priority.
“Tree of Life gives back to the global community as well as our local community,” Doyle said. “A lot of college bookstores and a lot of clothing manufactures are ashamed of where their clothes come from because if you saw it you would be shocked. So, what we’re really trying to do with On Mission is to show you the faces of the people who make your clothes and the factories that they work in so you can see that this is a good working environment.”
The Tree of Life’s mission states they “exist to transform the student experience, impact graduation rates and contribute to the financial health of our higher education partners across the country through original thinking, unique solutions and relevant products.”
“Tree of Life’s overall mission correlates to Oklahoma Christian’s mission, which is to give back,” Wright said. “That’s kind of what I heard from a lot of people on the decision-making board. They felt like Tree of Life’s Mission was very much in line with OC’s mission. And I think that they are very similar if you look at the mission on Tree of Life’s website and the handbooks for OC.”
When Oklahoma Christian students return in the fall semester, they will see a remodeled campus store in the same location. According to Doyle, in addition to the renovation over the summer, Tree of Life will also provide a textbook butler service to students.
“It allows students to sign up, get their schedule automatically from the school, pull all of their textbooks and give them to students as rental books,” Doyle said. “We’re giving students the cheapest option and will deliver them right into their dorm room. So, when students move into their room in the fall, all their books will be waiting for them on their beds, already charged to their student account and there’s nothing else they have to worry about.”
According to Katie Wright, it is exciting to see the new bookstore come to life.
“We’ve seen so much of the buzz when we were closed during our renovation time and seeing all of the students kind of peek in,” Wright said. “It was exciting to finally open our doors and have the students come in and look at what has already changed. I’m excited for the what fall is going to bring and how the students are going to react to that. I think it’s going to be really positive.”