USD President Sheila Gestring delivered her second State of the University address in Aalfs Auditorium Thursday afternoon. Gestring discussed topics ranging from the university’s 2025 strategic plan to renovation projects to campus buildings. Here’s a rundown from her address.
USD’s 2025 strategic plan
The first developmental stages, listening and data gathering of the university’s 2025 strategic plan are underway, Gestring said. The Strategic Plan Task Force’s 42 faculty members are reaching out to 76 stakeholder groups including students, lawmakers, business leaders and tribal representatives.
“To be effective, our new strategic plan must be flexible enough to be nimble, but sturdy enough to help us remain true to our core identity as South Dakota’s flagship public liberal arts university,” she said
USD Community College in Sioux Falls
Revamped in April 2019, USD Community College in Sioux Falls is a partnership between USD, South Dakota State and Dakota State to offer secondary education to a “large and diverse” group of learners, Gestring said.
Gestring said nearly a third of Sioux Falls high school graduates, nearly 700, don’t pursue secondary education in the first 16 months following graduation.
The Community College “fills the gap between South Dakota’s four technical institutes and six public universities, reaching students who are not currently are not enrolling in secondary education, who are displaying academic readiness,” Gestring said.
Students who’ve completed two-year degrees at Southeast Technical Institute can transfer credits toward a four-year degree at the Community College, Gestring said.
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Sioux Falls is offering $15,000 in grants for a re-entry scholarship program to help students with gap years finish their degree, Gestring said.
School of Health Sciences
The School of Health Sciences welcomed Haifa Samra, former Nursing Chair, as the new dean in May.
The School of Health Sciences holds more than 2,400 students, Gestring said, making it one of the “largest and fastest-growing schools at USD.”
Gestring said the South Dakota Board of Regents has forwarded a budget request for a new Health Sciences building to Gov. Kristi Noem, who will present it to the state legislature. This building could replace Julian Hall, which, if the request is approved, could be demolished in 2021.
The new Health Sciences building will “centralize 11 programs once housed in six buildings,” Gestring said, and include “classrooms and lab spaces and allow the dental hygiene program to nearly double.”
A $26.3 million renovation project to the DakotaDome began in February and will include new locker rooms, coaching offices, seating, a concourse, lighting and sound, and a new playing surface ready by the opening of the 2020 football season.
“After 41 years, the Dome will finally be completed,” Gestring said.
National Music Museum
16,000 square feet will be added to the National Music Museum after its $9.5 million renovation project is completed in 2021. Prior to the beginning of its construction in the summer, the City of Vermillion donated $700,000 to the initiative.
The new space will include a concert hall, temporary exhibit spaces, a gallery atrium, a kid-friendly area, a research and conservation lab and 4,600 square feet of exhibit spaces.
“A world-class collection needs a world-class facility,” Gestring said.
At last year’s State of the University address, Gestring announce the Dakota’s Promise scholarship initiative: “a needs-based financial aid program that will help 6,000 South Dakotans every year.”
Thursday, Gestring again called on the importance of the program. USD is losing Pell-eligible students, and a student with the highest need who’s earned the South Dakota Opportunity scholarship would still have a tuition gap of $4,400 per year, Gestring said.
South Dakota is the only state without a needs-based scholarship program.
“49 other states recognize that this is a priority,” Gestring said.
USD on Friday it enrolled 9,920 students for the fall 2019 semester, down from 10,066 in fall 2018.
Gestring said USD saw an enrollment decline compared to last year. It could be attributed to a decline in the number (201) of South Dakota high school graduates in May, she said.
South Dakota predicts its proportion of white students will move from 86% now to 74% by 2032, as the number of non-white students is projected to grow by 1,400, Gestring said. Sioux Falls’ percentage of white students in 1990 was 95% in 1990; it’s projected at 61% in 2020.
“As our state’s population continues to evolve, we must consider how we welcome that population, how we support an increasingly diverse student body,” Gestring said. “The Native American Cultural Center and the Center for Diversity and Community is critical now more than ever.”
USD’s retention rate rose from 72% in fall 2017 to 78% in fall 2019. Gestring said the university’s goal is an 82% retention rate.
Gestring said USD introduced a faculty and advisor-led re-recruitment strategy aimed toward “communication with students questioning their ability to be successful.”
Since 2010, the four-year graduation rate increased 22% while the six-year rate grew 12%, nearly double the change from other regental institutions, Gestring said.
Onward fundraising campaign
16,000 donors raised $272 million dollars for the Onward campaign for South Dakota, which concluded in April, Gestring said.
“We are thought leaders, we are difference makers, we are South Dakota,” Gestring said to end the address.
The Volante will update this article when enrollment numbers are released on Friday.