Dickinson State University

Dickinson State University

2020 Vision: Looking back at an incredible decade and looking forward to even more success

As I embark on my first full month as the Interim President of Dickinson State University, it is clear that this is a fascinating time in the history of our beloved “College on the Hill.”

The past decade was filled with accomplishments for Dickinson State. On the academic front, DSU student Matt Perdue received the prestigious recognition of being named a Truman Scholar, and other recent graduates were accepted into optometry, medical, law, and other professional schools, while their colleagues were accepted in graduate school at institutions, some of which include the University of Massachusetts, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, the University of Arizona, Baylor University, the Peabody Institute of Music at Johns Hopkins University, Oregon State, Rice University, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Georgetown, the University of Alabama, and the University of Connecticut.

In 2019, DSU received a glowing accreditation report that will carry our Higher Learning Commission accreditation through 2024. Following a midcycle comprehensive review of the institution’s mission, academic programs and services, governance and administration, finances, and resources, the Higher Learning Commission confirmed that DSU is meeting recognized accreditation standards in higher education, is pursuing institutional improvement and excellence, and is in full compliance with requirements set by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Department of Business and Management at DSU received approval from the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education in 2017 to form the School of Business and Entrepreneurship. Launched in 1927 as the Commerce Division of Dickinson Normal School, the academic unit consisted of business administration, secretarial arts, and commerce. Now, as the School of Business and Entrepreneurship, DSU offers six bachelor’s degree fields of study in business accredited by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.

In 2017, Arts Midwest, one of six regional arts organizations in the United States, named DSU its sole World Fest partner for the state of North Dakota. Through a two-year partnership, Arts Midwest collaborated with the University to bring four international music ensembles to Dickinson to share their unique culture and music through workshops in schools and community locations. Each visit culminated in a well-attended public concert in May Hall’s Dorothy Stickney Auditorium.

During this decade, the Theodore Roosevelt Center, established in 2009, published its 50,000th digital item – a number that continues to climb daily with the hard work of its staff. The impressive collection housed in the digital library is helping to fulfill the TR Center’s mission to “facilitate research for scholars, students, Roosevelt enthusiasts and the public.” Its 50,000-plus item inventory makes for quite a comprehensive resource. A wide variety of interested parties are taking advantage of having access to these materials.

On the fiscal front, too, there is good—indeed, amazing—news. Four years ago, Interim President Jim Ozbun and a group of dedicated alumni and friends started a brand-new foundation to raise funds to support DSU students with scholarships.  In that short time, the DSU Heritage Foundation has raised over $15 million. The generosity of Dickinson and southwestern North Dakota citizens demonstrates the amazing support our area provides to DSU and its students.

In the last 10 years the campus has seen vast improvements to student spaces including a newly renovated dining area that is also open to the public, upgrades to residence halls, and the addition of the Blue Hawk Hub lounge space. The North Dakota Legislature also appropriated funds that will enable us to make a longstanding dream—converting Pulver back into a campus facility—come true. The renovated Pulver Hall will be the home of our Theodore Roosevelt Center and the residence for our Theodore Roosevelt Honors Leadership Program scholars. This will allow both programs, which are unique to our University, to continue to grow. When the Pulver Hall renovation is completed (in about two years), we will also have showcase space for the community that will tell the story of Theodore Roosevelt’s connections to Dickinson and southwest North Dakota. We hope it will become a “must stop” when you are taking your out-of-town guests on a tour of Dickinson.

The sports pages of the past decade also document many DSU accomplishments. The Blue Hawks have won 35 conference championships in the past decade:

  • 7 in men’s track and field
  • 4 in women’s track and field
  • 7 in softball
  • 3 in men’s cross country
  • 6 in football
  • 2 (regional championships) in wrestling
  • 5 in women’s cross country
  • 1 in men’s basketball

The University has produced four individual national champions and the NAIA has inducted four Blue Hawks into its Hall of Fame. The Blue Hawks have also produced a number of all-conference athletes, Coaches of the Year, 78 NAIA all-Americans and have had several teams quality for their respective NAIA National Tournaments in the last 10 years. Five of our recent graduates appeared in the Olympic Games. One, Ramon Miller, took the baton in the classic Olympic relay race, the 4 by 400 meters, five meters behind and drove past the lead runner to secure his country’s first ever men’s Olympic track gold medal. Among small schools, DSU is at the top of Mount Olympus.

In 2018, the University celebrated its Centennial year, commemorating 100 years of excellence in education as alumni from across the country traveled back to the DSU campus. During this celebration, alumni and their families and friends had the opportunity to reconnect with fellow classmates and see how the campus has changed since they last walked the halls of their alma mater.

In 2019, Dickinson State became the first and only dual mission four-year institution in North Dakota. This means that, in addition to our traditional strengths (including teacher education, agriculture, business, the humanities, science, and others), we will now teach nontraditional workplace training and other courses to meet the specific needs of Dickinson and southwestern North Dakota. We have already added certified nursing assistant training, a communication workshop for working professionals, and criminal justice programs, and we hope to be able to provide welding this spring. We look forward to adding other innovative programs in the upcoming decade.

As part of our dual mission designation, we have also recently added our first graduate programs. The Department of Teacher Education added a master’s degree for those who pursued undergraduate degrees in non-teaching fields in 2018, and the School of Business and Entrepreneurship added a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship in 2019. Both programs are poised to grow.

As a DSU alumnus, I treasure the accomplishments of the past decade. As the new Interim President, I treasure the opportunity to share them with our students, potential students, alumni, and other supporters. This is an exciting time for Dickinson State, with wonderful opportunities already on the horizon.

We are also optimistic that we can grow Dickinson State’s enrollment in the upcoming years. While it is true that other colleges will also be competing for students, Dickinson State has much to offer. Our brand is personal attention. When I ask our students what keeps them at DSU to pursue their degrees, the overwhelming reason is “people at Dickinson State care about me.” While a rich campus life, solid facilities, opportunities for student participation and growth, and even successful athletic teams are important assets, it is DSU’s people who are our biggest treasure. They do indeed care about our students. They work hard to help them succeed.

Along with many moments of achievement, happiness, and even glory in the past decade, DSU and we who love her did have some tough times. But she stands strengthened by those tough times, proud of the many good times, and ready to take on the world in the upcoming decade. My son, a recent graduate, and his friends popularized the expression “Hawks are up!” as an indication of pride in DSU. The Hawks are up for the 2020s!


Sparks Fly: DSU offers new welding program for students and community members

I wasn’t wandering aimlessly around the Dickinson State University (DSU) Agriculture Building long before adjunct instructor Mr. Ben Krebs pulled me into the room 107 workshop. Inside, students leaned around the scrap metal pile, talking shop before class. I could tell they were excited to get to work. As class began, the students began gearing up – close-toed shoes, denim pants, fire-resistant jackets, and, most importantly, glasses and a helmet to protect their skin and eyes from the sparks that were about to fly.

Instruction depends on the day, they told me. Mr. Krebs assigns them projects that they work on independently and he checks in to help them along, as needed. Each week on Tuesday night, the DSU students spend three hours in class from to 9 p.m. learning techniques, equipment, and standard safety procedures. Outside of class, they’re required to spend 20 hours on their projects throughout the 16-week semester.

The welding class that I attended is included in Dickinson State University’s new dual mission offerings. Long term, the plan is to provide continuing education, certification, and recertification to existing welders in the community, and to help fill a gap by training employable industrial welders in the state.

The University is also considering the addition of two new welding programs that could be proposed in the near future – a one-year certificate and an associate’s degree.

Dr. Chip Poland, chair of the Department of Agriculture & Technical Studies at DSU, often asks himself, “How do I create new welders?” He explained to me the shortage of welders throughout the state. “Certainly manufacturers have come to the table. There is a desire and a need.” And this desire was absolutely reflected in the students I spoke to as well. Many of them are farmers or ranchers who wanted to pick up the necessary skills to patch broken equipment or tools. Others were considering a career in welding and viewed it as a great, and lucrative, opportunity.

One student went so far as to say, “I wasn’t coming [to DSU] because [DSU] didn’t have welding but [the concept of this program] changed my mind.” Now, he’s enrolled in DSU’s one-year Farm and Ranch Management certificate, and possibly an associate’s degree in Agricultural Business Management, while taking the welding classes that are currently available. Like many of his classmates, this student wanted to continue playing football while learning a skill that would help him on his family farm, and also professionally.

“There are a number of students who want to participate in sports at the collegiate level, but their true passion is in welding,” Dr. Poland shared, and having a degree option would allow them to do that. There are other benefits to this course, too, explained Dr. Poland. A college degree is a chance to “develop the whole person” along with “some softer skills that business tells us they’d like employees to have – communication, leadership, critical thinking, and working with others.

It is Dr. Poland’s hope that by providing these extended degrees, students will leave better prepared for the job market, and prepared in case of a career-ending injury, or a massive change in the job market. By the end of the program, students will be able to say, “I’m not just a welder, I have a set of skills to do a variety of things.”

In the meantime, sparks will continue to fly (behind heavy protective curtains) in the Dickinson State Agriculture Building. The students will continue learning the basics of welding, and many will go on next semester into a more advanced, and specified course. Without question, this experience will open doors for the students participating whether that be in industrial work, manufacturing, farming, or ranching. The future these students choose is up to them!


Dickinson State University names Student Nurse of the Year

Giselle Ishimwe, a junior nursing student at Dickinson State University (DSU), was named Student Nurse of the Year during the university’s annual competition in December. Ishimwe has been selected to represent the DSU chapter of the Nursing Students’ Association at local and state events.

Ishimwe is a native of Rwanda. Her family moved to the United States when she was 15 years old and graduated from West Fargo High School in West Fargo, North Dakota. Ishimwe then obtained a degree in Licensed Practical Nursing from the North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) in Wahpeton, North Dakota, in 2018. Giselle is an active member of the DSU chapter of the Nursing Students’ Association and has been involved with other organizations on the campus, including Student Senate and the International Club.

In addition to her school obligations, Ishimwe works as a licensed practical nurse at three different facilities: Villa Maria in Fargo, North Dakota, where she also worked as a certified nursing assistant before becoming a nurse; Sanford Home Health in Pediatrics in Fargo; and at St. Luke’s Nursing Home in Dickinson, North Dakota.

When Ishimwe was asked why she wanted to be a nurse, she responded, “My parents made sacrifices to move all the way here and leave everything behind that they had worked so hard for in order for my siblings and I to get the education we need and to be successful in life. All I have ever wanted out of life is to have a purpose and my purpose is to help others. Nursing is something that you should not just do for pay. It has to be in your heart and you should have a passion for it. When passion meets purpose, success is always guaranteed, and that is called destiny. I was destined to be a nurse.”