President Abbott Stresses Importance of Liberal Arts Education in State of the University Address

Image President Abbott President James W. Abbott

USD President James W. Abbott said Thursday in his 19th State of the University address that at a time when many national leaders say students can’t find a job without specific skills, a liberal arts education is still vital. "I really feel as if we’ve done a disservice when we don’t stand up for the liberal arts. Is there a more essential skill than thinking? … The world is changed by people who know how to think.”

While overall enrollment is down slightly this academic year to 9,971 and there are fewer part-time students, the freshman class is 4.5 percent larger, the total number of full-time equivalent students is up and USD retained more students this year, he said. Considering the ongoing discussion about skills, USD is doing extremely well in growing its freshman class at a time when South Dakota’s university system was flat, Abbot said.

Other items of note:

  • The current student population is 60 percent female and 40 percent male; 60 percent are in-state residents and 40 percent come from other states and countries; and the number of minority students is up. “We are becoming more diverse,” Abbott said.
  • Undergraduate majors were up in Business, Education and special/undeclared but down in Arts & Sciences, Health Sciences and Fine Arts.
  • At the graduate level, the number of majors is higher for Health Sciences, Business, Fine Arts, Medicine, Law and graduate/special but down in Arts &  Sciences and Education.
  • A student satisfaction survey found significant improvements since 2013 in the effectiveness of instruction; academic advising; admissions, recruitment and financial aid; campus life; registration; the campus climate; student centeredness and concern for the individual; and campus support services.
  • The student survey also found some areas of potential improvement, including: commitment to racial harmony; financial aid; athletic programs that contribute to school spirit; adequate computer labs; availability of tutoring; comfortable living conditions in residence halls; enough weekend activities; putting student activity fees to good use; tuition being worth the investment; and adequate student parking.
  • The new basketball/volleyball arena and track/soccer complex are on schedule and several other building projects are planned, though they will require major donations. “The campus and grounds have never looked better,” Abbott said.

ABOUT USD

Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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