Good morning and Happy New Year!
As I began to prepare my remarks for this morning’s address, I received a phone call from a supporter who wished me a Happy New Year and then concluded that she hoped we would continue to make strides in our goal to be recognized as a high quality, innovative university. Given the time of year for reflection and resolutions, I began to think about the various methods we will follow to achieve this vision.
Some believe we will accomplish the vision through our professional accrediting bodies that affirm the quality of our academic programs. We have made great strides as demonstrated by the resoundingly positive NCATE review a year ago, the continuing accreditation of the music program through NASM, the progress of the business program toward AACSB accreditation, and the approval by the Board of Regents in December to pursue accreditation for our chemistry program. A number of individuals have spent countless hours preparing our self study report for the Higher Learning Commission who will visit the campus in April. There is no doubt that the process to achieve accreditation raises the bar and assures high quality academic programs.
Others believe we will accomplish our vision to be recognized as a high quality, innovative university through awards and recognitions. Each week Campus Currents is replete with stories about faculty and staff accomplishments as well as institutional awards. The Black Hills Pioneer and the Rapid City Journal have been very helpful in bringing these accomplishments to their readers. It is apparent that Black Hills State University is being noted for its successes throughout the state and nation.
While these recognitions are impressive, I believe the caller was referring to something more fundamental. As I reflected on the conversation, I think she was hoping rank and file South Dakotans would give BHSU recognition as a high quality, innovative university. We have students from every county in the state as well as alums who live and work and provide leadership in every county in the state. The following map reflects our outreach efforts through SDCEO, CAMSE, the Sanford Science Education Center, and other activities which impact the entire state. Yet, I receive reports that people often perceive BHSU as a small teachers’ college serving western South Dakota. They are astounded to learn that business is our largest program, that we have a significant role in the Sanford Underground Research Facility, or that we are the third largest university in South Dakota. Please know we are extremely proud of our nationally recognized teacher preparation program which is the largest in the state. But, we are much more than a single purpose institution and we need to get that word out.
So what is our resolution for the year? To be bold, to be proud, to let the citizens of the state know we are an incredible university that celebrates its success through the successes of our alums and students. We have numerous examples but I would like to highlight a few.
I recently talked with an alum who went on to dental school after completing her degree at BHSU. She told me how scared she was her first day of classes. Here she was from BHSU, a small school in South Dakota surrounded by students from across the country. The first day of class one of her professors asked if they knew the purpose of a certain instrument. Most students raised their hands. He then asked if any of the students had ever worked with the instrument. Only 2 hands remained up. One was our alum’s. At that point, her confidence increased substantially. She went on to talk about Dr. Gabel and how he held review sessions before tests. She said she didn’t understand why he continued to hold the sessions when only 3 or 4 students attended. However, I would imagine these sessions were the highlight of Mark’s day. Working with students who wanted to absorb every piece of knowledge he could impart isn’t a waste of time, it is an investment in the future. We often receive letters from our recent alums. These letters affirm our work and our efforts to transform their lives.
One alum wrote, “I am writing to let you know that you have forever forged the metal of my life. It is to you that I owe a debt of gratitude, for going beyond the standard methods of relating materials to your students, and showing not only a desire, but a passion for teaching.”
Another student who enrolled in the MBA program at George Washington University stated, “I am only one of two people that came in this semester in GW’s professional MBA program who had just graduated. This has provided a challenge to me since many of the business professionals in my classes and professors look down upon me not only because I am from South Dakota but also because I am 23 compared to the average age of around 29. I love the challenge of proving everyone’s doubts wrong about me, and your style and methods of teaching worked very well.... I know this seems kind of weird but I felt the need to thank you. So thanks!”
A final testimonial comes from a student enrolled in her master’s degree at the University of Wyoming. She stated, “I had an excellent experience at BHSU and earned a fantastic education. I am proud to say that I am a graduate of ….BHSU. Thank you and the entire faculty for your dedication to your students’ education and for developing such a well rounded program.”
We have alums who are making a mark in graduate programs and in their careers:
Jessica Juhrend (Spearfish): Jess is in her second year at one of the most prestigious theatre programs in the nation, Adelphi. Jess won awards while a student at BHSU for playwriting with one of her plays produced in Los Angeles casting professional actors. Since enrolling in her graduate program, Jess continues to succeed receiving the Dramatic Writing Award during her first year of graduate school. Jessica is making her mark in New York City.
Ben Reiter (Riverton, WY): Ben completed his degree in Political Science, went to the University of Chicago to complete his masters in humanities and is now pursuing his law degree at UCLA.
Jennifer Johnson (Hettinger, ND): The math faculty often noted that Jennifer was one of their top students ever. She is enrolled in the MA/PHD program at Kansas State. This fall, we were notified that Jennifer is considered the top student in their program.
Jake Miller (Pierre): We often brag about Jake and with good reason. Jake is a 2009 alum who was admitted to the first class of the MD/PHD program at USD. Jake is considered among the top students in the program. Jake’s research focus on identifying treatment for a rare, fatal pediatric neurodegenerative disease was highlighted in an article in the Pioneer last month. Jake was quoted in the article saying, “My research as an undergraduate as well as with the Honors Program at BHSU gave me an edge in my medical school classes and PhD research. I was extremely well prepared with my ability as far as doing things in the lab, as well as writing and reading papers.”
Mary Jo May (Kyle): Mary Jo was a Gates Scholar and a social science education major. Mary Jo took an internship at the Department of Veteran Affairs in Washington during her senior year. As part of her research, she developed an exhibit featuring the contributions of Native Americans in the military. She was the only student intern to have her exhibit chosen to be on display at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian.
Katrina Salitros (Vermillion): Katrina interned at the Home Shopping Network while a student at BHSU. She loved her experience and has returned to HSN in St. Petersburg, FL following her graduation.
Theresa Mutter (Germany): Theresa completed her degree in Communications and is the Fundraising Executive for Europe at Hilton in the Community Foundation in London.
Travis Langer (Spearfish): Travis is an intern with the Minnesota Vikings as part of his graduate program at the University of Minnesota Mankato. Last month, Travis took the time to write a lengthy email to me in which he highlighted the amazing experiences he is having, how much he is learning, and how the preparation at BHSU has influenced his success in graduate school. However, Travis wasn’t writing to brag. Rather, he was encouraging BHSU to enhance our sports information program. He loves BHSU and sees the advantage of a strong Sports Information position. BHSU is fortunate to have many current students who also have this passion:
Devin Lynn (Powell, WY): Devin is one of those students who is involved in nearly every activity on campus including editor-in-chief of the Jacket Journal, coordinator of civic engagement, tutor for Student Support Services, and Vice President of Phi Kappa Phi. He presented at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research. Devin was selected to attend the Clinton Global Initiative Conference in Washington, DC this past year. This is a highly competitive process which involves students submitting proposals that will make a difference. Devin’s project for the initiative is to develop a web based platform for entrepreneurs in Uganda. He was recently featured in BIZ Now for his work. However, rather than focus on himself in the article, he recognized the number of students at BHSU who assisted him in the project.
Daniel Fairchild (Armour), Markus Heinrich (Whitewood) and Kalani Corpuz (Rapid City): Anyone who has met Daniel, Markus, and Kalani will agree their enthusiasm for BHSU is unparalleled. Daniel was determined that we would have a skydiver for homecoming. Undeterred by red tape and funding issues, he found the sponsors, cleared liability concerns, and made it happen. Markus and Kalani have developed several devices to encourage recycling including the Can2Can crusher for use during events. They are putting one in Sturgis High School and asked the University to be one of the sponsors for advertising. I was told that Markus will text or email his faculty in the middle of the night when he wakes up with another bright idea.
Lauren Lund (Hot Springs) along with 9 psychology students and their advisor, Dr. Boeschen, will conduct research at the Special Olympics World Games in South Korea. While in South Korea, they will attend the first Global Development Summit on Ending the Cycle of Poverty and Exclusion for People with Intellectual Disabilities. Lauren stated, “I believe this research shows that great things can come out of small places and out of those small places are individuals who can be shaped into strong, confident men and women who will soon be put into the world and be able to apply their broadened perspectives to every aspect of their lives.” The University is providing limited funding for the students since it would take nearly our entire travel budget to send them to South Korea. The students have raised funds throughout the year to cover their costs.
The dance team and cheerleaders receive no University funding. They contribute to the atmosphere at our athletic events because they believe it is important for the fans and the University. They raise their own funds to cover uniforms and practice early morning or late evenings when the gym is available.
These students and many others are making a significant contribution to BHSU because they love the university and want to have a positive impact.
Sometimes students as I just described can almost be a burden. They push us. They take us out of our comfort zone. They have passion. We also know every student is not like this. We have students we have to prod to meet deadlines and to reach their potential. I know they cause us heartache and anguish. Yet, we repeatedly receive comments from alums who acknowledge they were at risk of not completing their degree and they credit a faculty member, a staff person, or a supervisor for their student work position for helping them get their act together. These are now individuals who hold leadership positions, are productive in their careers and lead successful personal lives.
So, I return to the reflections of the New Year.
• Do we make a difference?
• Do we transform lives?
• Do we have passion for BHSU?
• Are we proud of our affiliation with BHSU?
How do we demonstrate this?
• Do we wear our BHSU lapel pins?
• Do we attend BHSU events?
• Do we have BHSU license plates or logos on our cars?
• Do we wear BHSU apparel when traveling?
• Do we wear green and gold on Fridays? The proceeds of the campaign to “Show I Care by What I Wear” on Friday support scholarships for children of employees who are attending BHSU. The recipients this semester are Brooke Mabey, daughter of Diane Mabey; Jackson Guthmiller, son of Kanda Guthmiller; and Jay Darling, son of Diane Darling.
• Do we contribute to the scholarship drive to assist our students in need?
• Do we tell our students about the successes that our alums and students are experiencing? On the first floor of Woodburn we have rotating displays of the accomplishments of our students, alums, and faculty/staff. There is seldom a time when I am on first floor that I don’t see someone reading one of the displays.
Our vision statement is to be recognized as an innovative, high quality university. In many regards, that recognition begins at home. Let’s show our pride in this outstanding university. Thank you and have a great semester.