Many western South Dakota students are choosing to stay local for college. More than 30 graduates from the Spearfish High School Class of 2013 are now enrolled at Black Hills State University including, from left to right, Brittany Thompson, political science major; Brady Jones, history education major; and Kaitlin Spargur, biology major.
Brittany Thompson’s decision to enroll at Black Hills State University this fall was a last minute one, but a choice she’s glad she made.

“As I looked into it, I realized there’s no reason why I shouldn’t go here,” said the 2013 Spearfish High School graduate and political science major.

Thompson is not alone. More than 30 graduates from the SHS Class of 2013 are now enrolled at the University, according to enrollment numbers.

“I don’t push them in any certain direction,“ said SHS Principal Steve Morford. “I’m excited to see them go someplace where they are successful and happy and for a lot that is Black Hills State University.”

BHSU does a great job of preparing students for the workplace or graduate school, Morford said noting that employers are looking for skills, not necessarily where their degree was earned. “If someone is saying a BHSU diploma is different than a Harvard diploma, I would have to disagree.”

Thompson, who plans to go to law school, initially thought she should earn her undergraduate degree at the same university she planned to attend for law school.

“As I looked more into it I realized that there’s no reason why I shouldn’t go here,” she said noting that BHSU has a great political science program.

BHSU offers 20 pre-professional degree programs ranging from the medical profession and law to agriculture and forestry. Students earn their undergraduate degrees while at the same time participate in undergraduate research and other innovative research-based experiences.   

Thompson said she loves Spearfish and believes BHSU is a University that continues to evolve. “You don’t have to go to a big school to get that big school experience.”

One of her current professors teaches at Princeton University in the summer, but comes back to BHSU each academic year. “It’s amazing that BHSU can offer that. I’ve always had BH pride. I listen to my professors and they have that same pride when they talk about BHSU.”

BHSU was always a top contender for Kaitlin Spargur, also a 2013 SHS graduate. The size of the school and the fact she could remain close to her family were factors in her decision to enroll at the University.

While it has been reassuring having some high school classmates on campus, she said, everyone, faculty, staff and students at BHSU, have helped make the transition into university life easier. Like her classmate, Spargur, biology major, is taking advantage of BHSU’s pre-professional program in her goal of becoming a physical therapist.

With BHSU having its foundation as a teacher’s college, Brady Jones, English education major, thought the University was an obvious choice. “It just seemed liked the best choice and made the most sense,” said the SHS graduate who hopes to teach either English or history.

Morford said he enjoys it when high school graduates decide to stay local, especially with the high caliber of students coming out of schools such as Spearfish. The 2013 SHS graduating class had the highest scores on the ACT and the Dakota State Testing of Educational Progress (DSTEP) of any other SHS class. “They were a very academic class,” he said adding that he foresees this year’s senior class producing similar or higher scores.

“We need to keep our best and brightest not only in South Dakota but in the Northern Hills area,” he said.

BHSU programs are constantly evolving to provide the best opportunities for students in an ever-changing and expanding global economy, and preparing them for a wide variety of career possibilities.