Barry H. Dunn was named the 20th president of South Dakota State University in April 2016, the fourth alumnus chosen to lead the institution. He assumed office May 23, 2016.
Dunn launched a number of key initiatives during his first two years, including the development of Imagine 2023, the university’s next five-year strategic plan that began July 1, 2018. The plan sets the strategic direction for the university and infuses a set of core values around people-centered leadership, creativity, integrity, diversity and excellence.
Development of the plan started in January 2017 and included a collaborative and extensive process, reaching to all corners of South Dakota and renewing the values of the 1862 land-grant mission that founded South Dakota State University.
Dunn launched the Wokini Initiative in the Fall of 2016, an effort that offers programming and support to enrolled members of the state’s nine tribal nations interested in gaining access to educational and advancement opportunities at South Dakota State University. Wokini also enhances research and outreach collaborations and programs with tribes, tribal colleges and other tribal organizations in the state.
Highlighting the Wokini Initiative during the 2017-18 academic year was a $4 million gift for the building of a new American Indian Education Center on the SDState campus. The gift also included an additional $100,000 in scholarships to be used to support American Indian students attending the university, increasing the total amount raised for Wokini Scholarships to more than $300,000. Construction of the facility is set to begin during the 2018-19 academic year.
Two other major facility projects are the result of Dunn’s leadership as president. The South Dakota Legislature approved a $58 million project for the Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory that will include an addition to the current structure and a Biosafety Level 3 space, the only level 3 security facility in the state. It will be completed in spring 2020.
Dunn was also instrumental in gaining approval for a $55 million Precision Agriculture Facility that will be built on campus. He led efforts to secure $22 million from the South Dakota Legislature and a lead gift of $5 million from Raven Industries. SDState is currently the only university with both a precision ag major and minor as part of its academic offerings.
Dunn’s time at SDState dates to the mid 1970s when he received a bachelor’s degree in biology at SDSU and subsequently completed two graduate degrees in animal science—a master’s in 1977 and a Ph.D. in in 2000. He became the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council endowed dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences in 2010. He also served as director of SDSU Extension and as a professor of animal science.
As dean, Dunn led a college with approximately 550 faculty and staff, 2,800 graduate and undergraduate students, and a $78 million annual budget, including more than $20 million in grant and contract awards, fundraising and development. He shaped the academic and strategic direction of eight departments, spanning 18 degree programs, one regional research and outreach center, six research field stations and 14,500 acres of Agricultural Experiment Station research land.
As SDSU Extension director, Dunn administered and set the vision for five program areas across two colleges and nine departments, as well as eight regional extension centers with a $12 million annual budget. He led a team of approximately 150 faculty and staff members and 3,500 adult volunteers.
Dunn spent six years at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (from 2004 to 2010) as executive director of the King Ranch Institute for Range Management. He worked in Brookings as an SDSU Extension livestock specialist and as an assistant professor in SDSU’s Department of Animal and Range Science from 1997 to 2004.
From 1979 to 1996, Dunn was a successful rancher, managing his family’s cattle ranch in Mission, South Dakota. In 2015, he was appointed to the South Dakota Habitat Conservation Fund by Gov. Dennis Daugaard, and to the Governor’s Pheasant Work Group in 2014. He served as an ex-officio member of the ag advisory board for the First Dakota National Bank in Yankton South Dakota, from 2011 to 2016, and was a member of the board of directors for Padlock Ranch in Dayton, Wyoming from 2009 to 2017.
Dunn has a rich academic background, was a successful rancher and farm operator and is a published author and researcher. He is a nationally recognized expert in beef production and ranching systems, and is a member of several professional organizations, including the Society for Range Management, the American Society of Animal Science and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. He has a deep historical and cultural knowledge of South Dakota and South Dakota State University, and strong, statewide relationships with industry influencers and stakeholders, including government officials, business leaders, university administration, faculty and staff.
Dunn and his wife, Jane, maintain her family’s original homestead north of Brookings where they raised their two sons.