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State of the University

State of the University address by Barry H. Dunn, President of South Dakota State University on September 20, 2023

Good afternoon. Thank you for attending today’s event. Whether you are in here person or joining on Zoom, I appreciate you taking the time to be here for this important university update.

It has been a wonderful start to the fall semester, and it has been great seeing everyone back on campus. As we enter our 8th year of serving South Dakota State, I want to take a moment to thank my wife, Jane for everything she does to help me, and the university succeed. 

She has been an incredible partner during my presidency, and together, we could not be more grateful for the opportunity to serve in this position, and we are excited for what lies ahead for this great university.

This afternoon, I will review with you accomplishments our university achieved over the past year, as well as over the course of Imagine 2023. I will conclude today by providing some specifics on Pathway to Premier 2030 – our new strategic plan.

To begin, I just want to take a moment to say WOW – what an incredible year we had! Fiscal year 2023 was one that will be remembered fondly by Jackrabbits for decades to come.

Last year began on a bright note with the largest first-time freshmen class our university had seen since 2017. It was a wonderful way to kick off the year on a positive note with so many new Jackrabbits to welcome.

Soon after school began, we announced the incredible $80 million USDA grant our university received last September for Climate-Smart agriculture.

This was the largest grant in university history, and it is an honor SDSU was selected for this important work. 

Congratulations, again, to our West River Team who secured the grant and will lead this important work. 

Last fall, our Pride of the Dakota’s Marching Band was selected to represent our university and the state of South Dakota in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Nearly 60,000 individuals interacted with our social media posts and literally millions of people saw our band in person or on national television. Thank you to Kevin Kessler and his team for leading this trip for a wonderful group of students. 

We reached the national stage again in January when our football team won its first ever FCS National Championship title. Thousands of Jackrabbits traveled to Frisco, Texas to cheer on our team, and the stands were filled with SDSU fans.

Again, SDSU’s brand reached thousands with more than 225,000 individuals through social media posts and exposure on national television.

And what a special moment for Coach John Stiegelmeier’s final game as our head coach after a 26-year career. Thank you, John, for everything you did for the football program and for SDSU.

Our momentum for Fiscal Year 2023 continued into a successful legislative session.

  • The Governor and Legislature provided us with a 7% salary policy increase.
  • For the second year in a row, we received base funding to cover the entire cost of the salary increase, allowing the Board of Regents to freeze tuition for this academic year.
  • We received $3 million in state general funds to finish the Bioproducts Facility in our Research Park.
  • SDSU received permission to spend more than $7 million in insurance payments to repair damage to our agricultural-use structures damaged in the May 2022 Derecho.
  • And, understanding the economic and employment challenges faced by South Dakota universities, the legislature also provided additional targeted funds to support base salary adjustments to address these challenges.
  • Our Board of Regents allocated these funds with direction on distribution in the amount of $1.2 million for SDSU employees. These funds were used to address market issues, years in position, and equity, taking also into account performance.

I want to express my gratitude for these investments in SDSU requested by the Board of Regents and made by the legislature and Governor Noem.

SDSU made major strides in all areas of the university throughout Fiscal Year 2023.

It is important that we take the time to recognize those accomplishments and the individuals and groups who have helped build our university into what it is today.

Last year we had 13 Institutional Program Reviews of academic programs which included Animal Science, Computer Science, Political Science, Psychology, just to name a few.

We received Board of Regent approval to add one new graduate certificate and three new undergraduate certificates to enhance our academic program offerings.

Plus, we received approval during the May Board of Regents meeting to offer two new undergraduate majors. Elementary Education and Special Education programs will be game changing for our university, as well as the state of South Dakota, as we work to prepare the educators of tomorrow.

These are just a few examples of how SDSU is always working to develop new programs, specializations, and certificates to address changing workforce needs for the State of South Dakota and our industry partners.

In addition, our research expenditures grew to an impressive $74 million in fiscal year 2023. This is remarkable accomplishment given it showcases a 24 percent increase from fiscal year 2022.

And of course, we continue to make strides toward our institutional health.

We’ve made multiple improvements to our facilities over this past year. Using our Maintenance and Repair funds, we made over $11 million worth of improvements across campus to maintain the physical plant of the university.

This summer we were able to move faculty and staff from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences back into Berg Agricultural Hall.

This $9.55 million dollar project provides newly remodeled space for scientists, faculty, SDSU Extension specialists, students, and administrators.

This upgraded space provides new research laboratories for various programs to include the new plant pathology diagnostic lab. This lab serves as the main resource to our state’s agriculture industry for plant and pest diagnostic tests.

And of course, the $17 million remodel project of Lincoln Hall is now the new home to the School of American and Global Studies and the administrative office for the College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences.

Both groups were able to move in over the summer to prepare for a successful academic year. And just last week, we celebrated the ribbon cutting for Lincoln Hall’s grand re-opening.

It was a wonderful event with receptions, lectures, and student-led tours through the building.

I want to thank Associate Vice President for Facilities and Services Barry Mielke and his team for his management of these projects, along with many others. Their hard work has made a positive difference across our entire campus.

Last spring, we graduated our 100,000th student in SDSU’s history. Our Alumni are growing like rabbits!

The work from Andi Fouberg and her team in the Alumni Association is essential to maintaining relationships with our students once they graduate from our university.

In addition to being with us in New York City and Frisco, the Alumni Association team put on numerous alumni gatherings in Mitchell, Watertown, Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls and Yankton over the summer.

These events help ensure our positive relationship with our alums and are critical to the success of our institution. Thank you to Andi, and everyone in the Alumni Association for your efforts!

Over the past five years, our leadership team has worked hard to ensure our institutional financial health. Given the decisions we’ve made, the university is on a sound foundation.

However, the same cannot be said for some of our counterparts.

If you haven’t seen the headlines in the news, let me debrief you.

  • NDSU is reducing their budget by $7.6 million. This forced them to cut academic programs and two academic colleges.
  • The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is undergoing a nearly $11 million budget cut this academic year. Their Board of Regents approved a 3.5 percent tuition increase to mitigate the budget crisis.
  • And St. Cloud State University announced a $24 million decrease in their annual budget this year. They were forced to cut programs, and faculty and staff members, just as students were returning to campus this fall.
  • Dickinson State University in North Dakota needs to cut at least $1 million in costs to avoid a budget crisis. To solve their problem, they are considering cutting programs like Chemistry and communications and eliminating tenured positions.

Every school I mentioned had the same signals as we did. But the difference between SDSU and the schools I just talked about is that we took action.

We have worked strategically over the past seven years to ensure SDSU is in strong shape financially. Not only to simply keep our doors open, but to build a pathway to premier for our university.

Launched on July 1, 2018, Imagine 2023 has served as a strategic road map for the university.

It outlined our mission, vision and core values, and provided strategies for academic excellence, community engagement, research, creative thought, excellence and high performance for Fiscal Years 2019 through Fiscal Year 2023.

I want to provide you with some of the major highlights of our four goals from Imagine 2023 – and the work that has led us to many notable accomplishments.

We take pride in preparing the leaders of tomorrow and providing the next generation of healthcare workers, educators, engineers, business professionals, performers, nutritionists, farmers, ranchers and many, many others.

This is evident in the first goal of Imagine 2023 – to Achieve Excellence Through Transformative Education.

On September 12, the South Dakota Board of Regents released fall 2023 numbers for all the regental institutions. We shared this information with you all through an internal communication and a press release.

We have the largest enrollment since 2019 with 11,505 students and an increase of more than 2,000 credit hours from last year.

This enrollment includes a near-record class of first-time students with 2,275 enrolled freshmen.

Additionally, we saw a record retention rate of 83% from students’ freshman to sophomore year.

This can be attributed to several things, including the new Freedom Scholarships, flat tuition, increased scholarship resources from the SDSU Foundation, the strength of our brand, as well as our student success efforts across campus.

I want to thank Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Michaela Willis and her team for their important work with enrollment at our university. 
I also want to thank Shawn Helmbolt, Director of Admissions and his entire team for their recruitment efforts that aided in our impressive freshmen enrollment. Thank you all for your hard work.

Enrollment and Retention metrics like these are certainly something to celebrate. But we need a concerted effort, from each and every one of us, across the entire university, to continue to support our current students through graduation.

And we must also put our best foot forward when meeting with, and interacting with, prospective students and their families in order to maintain our momentum related to increasing our freshman classes.

Annually, thousands of prospective students and their families tour our campus and meet with admissions counselors, faculty and others.

The greeting you give, the interest you take, the conversations you have, the door you open or the help you provide someone, may be the difference in that student choosing SDSU over one of the other universities or colleges they will visit.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have had a student come up to me and tell me they chose to go to SDSU because of one impactful conversation they had with someone on our campus during a campus tour.

Your attitude and demeanor make an impression! Please take credit for these good enrollment numbers and keep up your good work.

This past academic year we awarded 2,399 degrees and had a total of 2,357 graduates.

We have seen an upward trend in our 6-year graduation rate of nearly 3% from when we launched our strategic plan in 2018.

These metrics are proof that we are achieving goals set forth by the South Dakota Board of Regents to graduate students on-time, at a lower cost and get them into the workforce.

As a university, we continue to grow the number of accredited programs we offer. Accredited programs are a benchmark of academic excellence, signifying to both a student, their parents, and eventual employer about one’s preparedness to enter the workforce.

As you remember, in 2020 our university received the results of our institutional accreditation review.  It was one of the strongest accreditation reports SDSU has received in decades.

We have also seen great success in growth of program accreditation. We had 45 accredited programs when we launched Imagine 2023 with the goal of reaching 61 accredited programs.

I am happy to report we have not only met this critical goal, but we have exceeded it. Today, we currently have 64 accredited programs. I am very proud of our university and our academic leaders in meeting this important goal in providing academic excellence to those we serve.

This would not have happened without the diligent work of Provost Dennis Hedge, Vice Provost Teresa Seefeldt and the Deans, Directors and Department Heads of our programs. Thank you for your efforts to ensure we provide transformative education for our students. 

Another benchmark of our success is the ability to understand the workforce need of our industry stakeholders.

Leadership at SDSU continues to identify those workforce needs and the academic programs that can help support them and train our graduates to be prepared to make a positive difference.

Over the last five years we have added the following academic programs:

  • Our Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine (2+2 program with the University of Minnesota),
  • Concrete Industry Management,
  • Business Economics, and as I mentioned earlier,
  • Elementary Education, and Special Education.
  • Plus, multiple minors and certificates for students to choose from to enhance their skills.

Cultivate and Strengthen Community Engagement is the second goal of Imagine 2023. Enhancing our academic and work environments as well as growing the University’s outreach and external engagements are key to our future success.

During my inaugural address in 2016, I provided the demographics of the children in the Sioux Falls area schools and challenged all of us to take the responsibility to prepare and welcome them to SDSU and we’re doing just that!

One year ago, we hired Associate Vice President for External Affairs Vernon Brown to lead what we call SDSU Connect.

He and Regen Wiederrich work to better connect us to Sioux Falls businesses, non-profits, governments, and schools.

Through their hard work, we’ve already made significant accomplishments.

The relationships they're creating are leading to more internships, partnerships, media attention, and, most importantly, students.

Last year, the SDSU Connect team partnered with Admissions to host more than one thousand Sioux Falls middle schoolers.

This year, SDSU Connect’s outreach will broaden to ALL Sioux Falls middle schools. In total, that's 1,800 eighth graders who will have a Jackrabbit experience in academics, performing arts, or athletics.

But SDSU Connect's outreach goes beyond that. One example would be the Ness School "outpost" at Startup Sioux Falls.

Our recently announced partnership in the heart of that vibrant downtown will allow us to host speakers' series, workshops and career fairs, exposing the business community to our strong academic programming.

It’s important for you to know SDSU Connect is funded through a special flow of income from a financial gift giving us the strategic dollars to fulfill this initiative’s mission.

Thank you, Vernon and Regen.

In January of 2017, I committed SDSU’s annual revenues from our land-grant land managed by the Office of South Dakota School of Public Lands to improve the number of American Indians from our state’s 9 Federally recognized tribes graduating from SDSU.

It was a promise toward our commitment of outreach, engagement, and opportunity for all. This pledge started what we now know as the Wokini Initiative.

We have seen success with our Wokini Initiative as it applies to student enrollment and fundraising, and student success.

Through the efforts of generous donors, we built a new American Indian Student Center in the heart of campus and provided renewable scholarships to eligible students.

Wokini has been steadily growing since its inception. Five years ago, in the fall of 2018, we awarded a group of 15 students Wokini Scholarships.

I am pleased to say this year we awarded 50 students Wokini Scholarships.

Last summer, the Wokini Initiative also sponsored visits by faculty and staff to all 9 reservations in South Dakota.

Nearly 100 individuals participated, and I want to personally thank them for their involvement.

We also made a critically important new hire this summer. JR LaPlante joined SDSU’s team as our first Associate Vice President for Wokini. He will provide strategic leadership and direction for our efforts.

We also made important hires in the American Indian Student Center. Wiyaka His Horse Is Thunder will lead the team as Director, and Paige Cain will provide coordination and support of programming for Native American students on campus.

SDSU Extension casts a wide net of expertise across the entire state of South Dakota to improve economic prosperity and a better quality of life.

With approximately 150 staff members, SDSU Extension provides relevant programming for disaster and drought mitigation, workforce development, rangeland stewardship, mental health, families, 4-H, local foods, farm management and ag cyber security to name just a few.

In calendar year 2022, SDSU Extension provided resources and technical assistance during a year challenged by Derechos and extensive drought. This included 16 virtual webinar sessions that reached more than 2,000 participants.

The SDSU Extension website also provides great resources for individuals.

In Fiscal Year 2022, their website welcomed more than 1 million users across 233 countries. Altogether, the Extension systems had direct contact with near nearly 500,000 individuals during the year.

Additionally, SDSU Extension helped engage more than 2,000 certified volunteers that resulted in more than 200,000 hours of service on behalf of SDSU. This work contributed more than $5 million in value to the state of South Dakota.

In summary, SDSU Extension has a wonderful outreach mission providing important resources throughout South Dakota.

Thank you to Karla Trautman, director for SDSU Extension and her entire team for their diligent work.

There is no question that the decision to go to D1 in athletics was one of the most significant decisions in our university’s history.

But accomplishing D1 level of performance has been a nearly 20-year process.

For the past 15 years, Athletic Director Justin Sell has led our athletic program on an incredibly successful march towards excellence!

His leadership in building our athletics facilities, along with recruiting great coaches, high performing event management, and tremendous fundraising has been remarkable.

Let me share just a few accomplishments with you:

  • This year, SDSU athletics were honored with the Summit League Commissioners Cup. This was our 8th time receiving this award in the last 14 years!
  • The women’s basketball team won the WNIT on our home court in 2022 and continued this momentum into march madness last season.
  • And, did I mention, the football team won its first ever National Championship last year? Let’s do it again!
  • Most importantly, our athletic department remains committed to amateur athletics and the success and well being of student athletes. Who, by the way, are seemingly in every major we offer and are excellent students with an average GPA of 3.39.

Congratulations and thank you Justin and your entire team of coaches and staff for your outstanding leadership.

Our institutional success has influenced the SDSU brand, and it has never been stronger than it is today. Just last weekend it was on a clear display in Minneapolis at Target Field.

Our marketing initiatives, managed by Mike Lockrem, Director of University Marketing and Communications and his team have done an excellent job in crafting and honing our message across several media outlets to multiple stakeholder groups.

For me, the “Dear Tomorrow” adds that we ran right at the height of the pandemic will always stand out as bold, positive and inspirational.

The power of the SDSU brand was on full display. Thank you, Mike, and the entire UMC team for your work.

Goal 3 of Imagine 2023 – Foster Innovation and Increase Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity, addresses the urgent needs we are facing as a global society.

Research and scholarly work are critical to the success of all land-grant universities. It is our job to help solve the complex problems of today and create new knowledge which enhances society and the communities we call home.

At SDSU, we are thinking boldly. We have a role and responsibility in helping to solve the critical problems and issues facing our global society.

To help put this into perspective, I want to share several metrics with you.

  • In Fiscal Year 2018 we were awarded $45.7 million. In 2023 this number grew to more than $140 million in total
  • We also saw an increase of our total research expenditures, reaching $74 million in 2023. This represents a 17% growth in 5 years.

These numbers represent a growth of our university’s research and creative activity output and encourages us to continue investing in this area of our university in the future.

There have also been significant increases in aligning our physical resources to enhance our research impact.

Since the kickoff of Imagine 2023, we have either renovated or constructed nearly 568,000 square feet of research and creative space within eight buildings.

Some of these spaces include:

  • the Oscar Larson Performing Arts Center,
  • the Raven Precision Agriculture Center,
  • Harding Hall, and now
  • Lincoln Hall and
  • Berg Ag. Hall.

Building and remodeling these spaces has provided SDSU faculty the opportunity to work in collaborative, premier spaces, advancing our research, scholarship, and creative activity accomplishments.

Additionally, with the funding provided to us by the State Legislature and from generous donors through the SDSU Foundation, the Poet Bioproducts Center will house SDSU and South Dakota Mines’ bioprocessing initiative.

Located at SDSU Research Park on the east side of our campus, the facility will use biological systems to transform agricultural materials into high value inputs and end-use products.

This work will add sustainable economic value for South Dakota, as well as produce jobs. We will be a key part of the emerging “green” economy, and that is great news.

There are many examples related to research and creative activity underway that make a real and lasting difference in society. I’d like to share a few with you today:

  1. The Center of Biomedical Research Excellence received a nearly $11 million dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health. Led by Dr. Adam Hoppe, the Center will develop new biomedical research capacity to enhance research related to inflammation at the cellular or molecular levels.
  2. Dr. Amber Letcher of our School of Education, Counseling and Human Development led a multi-state team to provide services to prevent opioid abuse in rural South Dakota communities. To date, over 7,000 individuals across 63 communities have participated in the prevention webinars.
  3. The National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program named SDSU, along with other universities, a partner in a $14 million grant to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Great Plains region. Dr. Rajesh Kavasseri and Dr. Todd Letcher will serve as SDSU’s institutional leads for the program to bring cutting-edge technologies to market.

Thank you to everyone who has worked tirelessly to advance research on our campus and in our state.

And thank you to Vice President Daniel Scholl and his team for leading the division of Research and Economic Development to ensure our continued growth and research discovery.

Goal 4, strives for SDSU is to Be a Growing, High-Performing and Healthy University. And throughout Imagine 2023, we have done just that.

In the fall of 2021, the SDSU Foundation announced its Bold and Blue capital campaign with the goal of raising a half billion dollars for our university.

In consultation with university leadership, the Foundation focused their work into four main areas of impact: Our People, Our Places, Our Traditions and Our Innovations. And the results have been terrific.

Thanks to Bold and Blue, and since the beginning of the campaign, the annual scholarship support from the Foundation has nearly doubled from $4 million to $8 million, allowing more students access to the benefits of higher education.

Bold and Blue is also working to increase our commitments for endowed leadership and faculty positions. In 2018, we had 13 endowed positions.

Today, we have commitments in place for 53 positions. These positions matter. They enable us to recruit and retain talent. They provide an annual flow of resources. They provide stature. They recognize excellence.

And on top of that, the SDSU Foundation doubled its endowment over the course of Imagine 2023 to $236 million.

We have also seen incredible success in the SDSU Foundation’s annual day of giving, One Day for STATE. In the inaugural One Day for STATE in 2018, 2,000 donors gave more than $500,000 in just 24 hours. Earlier this month we celebrated the 7th annual One Day for STATE, where 6,474 donors gave nearly $2.6 million for SDSU in just one day.

And just last week, the Foundation announced that, with the financial commitments in place, we are assured of surpassing the half billion-dollar goal for Bold and Blue.

While it’s important to celebrate this incredible milestone, our work with Bold and Blue is not done. Because of the strong momentum Bold and Blue has built up, the campaign will continue through April 25, 2024. 

The Foundation is making a transformational impact on our university, and there hasn’t been a corner of campus that hasn’t been positively impacted by Bold and Blue.

I want to thank the SDSU Foundation President Steve Erpenbach and the entire Foundation staff for their incredible work.

As you know, financial stability is one of the key indicators of being a healthy university.

Over the last seven years, we have worked hard to ensure SDSU is financially stable and have worked to strengthen our financial health.

Our finance team uses a new SDSU-developed projection model to anticipate the impact of potential threats to our financial stability.

The projection model goes through 2030 and can proactively estimate the impact of future changes in enrollment, for example, to our financial positions. 

This tool, and the advanced planning it empowers, will allow us to adjust our budget to align with our resources in a people-centered approach.

As we assess our progress towards our goals, we monitor major financial metrics.

One major financial ratio we monitor is our Cash Balance. The BOR policy requires us to be above 10% cash balance based on the BOR calculation.

In Fiscal Year 2019, our cash balance was 10.62%. In Fiscal Years 2020 through 2023, we have built our cash resources and our 2023 cash balance was just over 14%, providing us flexibility and protection for the future.

Maintaining an appropriate Higher Learning Commission Ratio, also known as an HLC Ratio, is important for our accreditation and reflects our financial strength. An HLC Ratio is a composite of four sub-ratios that reflect financial stability and can range from a -4.0 to a +10.0.

Consistently achieving a 3.0 HLC ratio has been a long-term goal since I became President.

This has been challenging to achieve, but I am pleased to report that we have been on an upward trend over the past several years and are projected to hit a 3.5 for Fiscal Year 2022. This will be the highest HLC ratio in the last decade.

We achieved this by increasing our Unrestricted Cash at SDSU and the SDSU Foundation, improving our return on net assets, and, most importantly, by a reduction in overall long-term debt, which is the lowest since Fiscal Year 2014.

We have done well ensuring the financial stability of the university which is a credit to our leadership team and campus community.

Thank you, Vice President Mike Holbeck and the Division of Finance and Budget team for working to ensure we are a financially healthy university.

Another key component of a healthy university is a robust emergency management plan and team. This was put to the test multiple times throughout Imagine 2023, most notably the bomb cyclone, pandemic and the derecho.

I want to thank Vice President Tracy Greene for her leadership to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff.

Keeping up with the latest technology and upgrades throughout the university also ensures our institutional health.

Vice President Dave Overby and his team in the Division of Technology and Security have been working diligently to ensure we have the necessary technology tools for our student, faculty and staff’s success.

For instance, we have expanded the number of wireless access points by 1,303 around campus. We also replaced an additional 1,312 old wireless access points to ensure we have good connectivity across campus.

We also invested $6 million into new data storage systems, increasing our total data storage capacity to 11 Petabytes, and implemented disaster recovery systems in Sioux Falls.

All of these investments in our institutional technology infrastructure align with our goal to be a healthy university.

Thank you to the Division of Technology and Security for your important contributions to our institutional success.

Campus climate is an important factor in our success. In 2017, SDSU hired Skyfactor, a third-party vendor, to create, administer, evaluate and provide reports related to our campus climate.

Hiring an external company ensured the integrity of the survey and was the right thing to do. Given our work, the Board of Regents determined all campuses would follow this process.

The survey we use was designed to assess and evaluate the campus culture and provide opportunities for everyone within the university to share perspectives.

SDSU has conducted a campus climate survey in 2017, 2019, 2020 and 2022. The summaries of each survey are located on Inside State, and I encourage everyone to go out and read the results.

Our next survey will take place in late January or early February of 2024. I know everyone is busy, and surveys take time, but your participation is critically important as your input and opinions matter.

As a leadership team, we have made many changes based on information learned through the past campus climate surveys.

Let me share a few with you.

  • We made decisions related to targeted salary increases,
  • We have added mothers’ rooms to building remodeling projects,
  • We’ve increased accessibility to include widening over 100 doorways just in 2023.
  • We hired an ADA Coordinator in Human Resources and a second disability services staffer for student support.
  • We created a Risk Management Coordinator
  • Increased professional development opportunities,
  • Enhanced HR services, and
  • Determined a new structure to reduce risk for people, programs, and facilities.

All the moves that I just mentioned are direct results from the Campus Climate Surveys. Again, your voice matters!

Please take advantage of these opportunities to let us know how to do better for our students, faculty and staff by participating in the 2024 survey.

Are we perfect? Of course not. But we are working hard and are sincere in our efforts to improve.

In my 2021 State of the University, I relayed to the campus our charge from the Board of Regents to create an Opportunity Center by January 2022.

Under the leadership of Provost Dennis Hedge and Vice President Michaela Willis, they developed the framework and plans with the goal of enhancing our strong student success efforts which were already in place and working.

SDSU continues to drive student success at the Wintrode Student Success and Opportunity Center events and programming, which has moved to Wagner Hall in the center of campus.

Led by Dr. Jodi Owen, more than 4,600 unique students participated in at least one Wintrode Student Success and Opportunity Center program during the last academic year. 12% of these participants were first-generation students.

First-year student retention rate has grown with the help of the Wintrode Center. As I mentioned, our retention rate is 83% this year. Clearly our planning and work has paid off.

Thank you to everyone on campus working in student success for your dedication and hard work!

I hope it is abundantly clear that our commitment to all who seek the benefits of higher education is as strong as ever.

In summary, we’ve made incredible achievements with Imagine 2023, and I couldn’t be more proud or more grateful to each of you for helping our institution succeed.

Pathway to Premier 2030

And now we embark on a new, strategic plan as we face a very dynamic future.

Pathway to Premier will be our roadmap into the year 2030. This plan is the result of the hard work and dedication of many of you.

I want to extend a special thanks to those who were involved in the process. Whether you attended an input session or served on a committee, your work and service is greatly appreciated!

I want to give a special thanks to Vice President Willis and Provost Hedge for co-chairing this effort.

I also want to thank Teresa Seefeldt, Justin Sell, Stephen Gent and Mike Holbeck for their leadership of our goal task forces.

Lastly, our shared governance committees provided leadership reviewing our mission, vision and core values. Thank you.

Given the success of Imagine 2023, we kept the same four goals, but we expanded these to achieve our bold ideas for SDSU.

Our Mission, Vision and Core Values are exceptional, and I truly believe centering our university around these values will continue to be key to our institutional success.

I am very pleased to announce the Board of Regents adopted, as presented, our new strategic plan at their June meeting.

During the last strategic plan rollout, we lost some momentum during the implementation of the plan.

To ensure success, we began by investing in our new plan early this summer and partnered with Rose Group International out of Spearfish, South Dakota to support leaders across our campus as they implement our plan.

Over the summer, more than 100 university leaders participated in three workshops with the Rose Group.

I encourage you to go out to our website and read OUR strategic plan and take ownership of it.

It is bold. It is creative. And I have every confidence that it is the right path for this university over the next 7 years.

It refers to Research 1 Carnegie Classification, also referred to as R1, which is a designation related to the highest level of research and creative activity at a university.

Understanding the concepts related to R1 are important, as it is new for many of us.

I’d like to focus on this today in order to provide a clear picture of what it is, what it means for SDSU, and why it is so important.

Many of you may be asking why we want to pursue R1, and if we go down this pathway, how will it impact the rest of our plan.

There is high value in striving toward this – whether we achieve it or not. The process will bolster and feed into all our other goals, and each goal will benefit by developing R1 components.

And I believe it will be imperative to our success in differentiating our university and ensuring our continued success.

The alternative, which we have used in the past, is to set goals separately for our facilities, academic programming, enrollment, retention, total grants awarded, etc.

Using R1 allows us to look at the University in its entirety. This approach forces us to think and act differently. There are certainly silos within a university that we all know and recognize.

There are also synergies that I believe are underappreciated and by pursuing R1, these will be expressed and showcased.

Let me give you a few examples:

Our first goal, Achieve Excellence Through Transformative Education, will benefit from becoming an R1 university, as R1s attract exceptional faculty members across disciplines and fields.

These professors balance teaching undergraduate and graduate students with their research contributions.

This provides transformative education for our students who directly benefit from learning and studying alongside experts in their field.

Cultivate and Strengthen Community Engagement is another important goal of ours. R1 status correlates positively with economic growth, benefiting our community, state, and region.

Research and creative activity afford opportunities for collaborative partnerships highlighting our brand, economic impact and the innovation we provide to benefit others.

Our stakeholders will see the importance of our work and why it is critical for the State of South Dakota.

Lastly, we strive to Be a Growing, High-Performing, and Healthy University. R1 universities have a long track record of contributing to society, both through innovations and by educating students.

This is a result of being a preferred employer with opportunities to develop strong leaders.

Striving for R1 status will enhance our mission and vision through effective leadership and management, fundraising, and aligning strategic priorities and initiatives.

Alongside our strategic planning process, we have recently launched both a new Campus Master Plan project and we are continuing to address enrollment challenges through our new Strategic Enrollment Management Plan.

Under the leadership of Barry Mielke, the Facilities and Services team is working with CO-OP Architecture and the DLR Group to develop a comprehensive campus master plan.

The plan will serve as a strategic framework to guide future development and advancement of the university while aligning with Pathway to Premier 2030 and reinforcing the identity of SDSU.

The most recent campus master plan was developed in September 2012. It served as an important road map for many of the projects completed in the past decade.

The new plan will expand on that plan and provide us new opportunities and direction for the expansion and development of campus. It is anticipated to take 18 months to complete, and the process of building the plan has already begun.

As part of the discovery and data collection phase of the process, Facilities and Services will gather information from all colleges and departments across campus. There will also be multiple engagement opportunities with the campus community.

This past spring, we kicked off our Strategic Enrollment Management planning effort co-chaired by Vice President Michaela Willis and Vice Provost Victor Taylor.

Similarly, to our strategic planning process, we have held multiple input sessions and developed whitepapers based upon various types of students. For example, there were separate input sessions to discuss transfer students and first-time-freshman.

The goals conference for this new Strategic Enrollment Management plan will be held at the end of this month followed by a draft plan that will be vetted.

In addition, we will be working with the academic colleges regarding enrollment projections and targets over the next several months to feed into the Strategic Enrollment Management plan. We are aiming for the end of December to have our final plan ready to communicate and launch.

I encourage your participation and ask you continue to read the Monday Message for updates and opportunities to get involved!

Lastly, I want to thank the staff members in my office Karyn Weber, Jamison Lamp, Muriel McLaughlin, and Tomoko Ichinomiya (Itchy/no/me/ah).

They are a terrific team and provide me with excellent support and advice while helping me manage my busy schedule. I am very grateful for their hard work, professionalism, and dedication to SDSU.

In Closing

Together, we have made so much progress since kicking off Imagine 2023 in July of 2018.

  • We’ve expanded academic offerings to address workforce demands and our academic quality is supported by our accreditation numbers.
  • We’ve had the most successful fundraising campaign in SDSU history.
  • We became a leader in economic development for the state and region and increased research spending.
  • We transformed our campus through the construction and renovation of buildings and facilities.
  • We have created new and enhanced spaces for research, scholarly and creative activity.
  • We successfully tackled both a worldwide pandemic and a dangerous Derecho storm.
  • We increased graduation rates while decreasing student debt.
  • We reached the national stage multiple times, and our SDSU brand is recognized nationwide.
  • Our student groups are more successful than ever before, winning championships and even international competitions.
  • Jackrabbits are competing and breaking barriers like we’ve never seen before.
  • We are on a sound foundation financially; and
  • We have incredible support from our alumni, the SDSU Foundation, business partners, legislators, and the City of Brookings.

And we did all of this while remaining an affordable land grant university providing access to all.

I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished TOGETHER!

And now, as we look to future, I am confident SDSU will continue to lead our State in quality academics, student success, research and creative activity and economic impact.

We will continue to reach the goals of our Strategic Plan if each of us embraces our responsibility to be a premier, land grant University.

Thank you for joining me on this incredible journey.

I am honored, and humbled, to be your President!

Together, we are on a Pathway to Premier.