It was one month after the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in 1961 when he delivered his first special address to Congress on education. He started his address by saying “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. Our requirements for world leadership, our hopes for economic growth and the demands of citizenship itself in an era such as this all require the maximum development of every young American’s capacity. The human mind is our fundamental resource.” A message just as meaningful today as it was nearly 60 years ago.
Kennedy touched on many key points in his address but perhaps none more succinct than when he summarized his message this way; “For the nation, increasing the quality and availability of education is vital to both our national security and domestic well-being.”Quality and availability! They are the benchmarks for progress at South Dakota State University and have been supported in our land-grant mission of providing access to the benefits of higher education for all citizens of South Dakota since 1881.
We provide quality for our students with excellence through the work of our world-class faculty, state-of-the-art facilities and hands-on learning, which prepares young women and men to be global citizens in a continually changing and challenging world.
Just as critical, availability creates educational advancement to support economic growth and opportunities for students to achieve their academic and professional dreams. The result is SDSU’s impact on the economy in our state and region as we prepare the next generation of entrepreneurs and workforce in the more than 80 disciplines the university offers.
For example, it is the impact on the economy and the training of that next generation of students in an emerging industry that is driving the growth of precision agriculture at SDSU. It is why we were the first university in the United States to offer precision agriculture as both a major and minor.
It is why global leaders like Raven Industries, and many others, have invested in our new Raven Precision Agriculture Center to provide support, insight and collaboration. The center will promote research, educational advancement for students, and expansion of agriculture and the industries that support it throughout the state, region and beyond. It is why they invested in South Dakota's future on the campus of SDSU.
Economic growth and workforce development are why two SDSU professors experimented in the early 2000s on a process to extract high- quality protein from soybeans. Their work has since developed into Prairie AquaTech, a startup company that commercialized the product and employs over 40 staff, in addition to creating a new value-added agriculture product for farmers.
According to the South Dakota Board of Regents, last year our university conferred the highest number of STEM-related degrees in the state, as well as the highest number in health care, education, humanities, social sciences and agriculture. Our four-year graduation rate has increased by 10 percentage points in the past six years and federal student loan debt this past year for SDSU graduates who started and finished as Jackrabbits was at a six-year low.
We continue to propel our students into the dynamic and exciting world around us, while meeting the expectations set forth by the Board of Regents to graduate students on time and with less debt. Meeting President Kennedy’s challenge, we remain committed to quality and availability, which will allow us to continue to build a bright future for the citizens of South Dakota.
Go Jacks! Sincerely,
Barry H. Dunn President