Skip to main content

Chiesman Center for Democracy Coming to USD

Chiesman Center for Democracy coming to USD Seated left to right: Casey Murschel, chair of the Chiesman Foundation board and Deborah Gates, board secretary and treasurer. Standing left to right: Rob Timm, Chiesman Center president and chief executive officer; Merton B. Tice, board member; Dr. Pamela Carriveau, board member; Dick Brown, vice chair of the board; and David C. Earnest, chair of the Department of Political Science at USD.

VERMILLION, S.D. – The Chiesman Center for Democracy, South Dakota’s leading institute for the promotion of civic engagement, will be moving to the University of South Dakota in November 2018, the Chiesman Foundation announced today.

“For three decades, the Chiesman Center has created pioneering programs that have educated and engaged South Dakotans in the democratic process,” David C. Earnest, Odeen-Swanson Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at USD, said.

The estate of philanthropist Allene Chiesman, who graduated from USD in 1936 with a bachelor’s degree in history, created the Chiesman Foundation for Democracy in 1996. Chiesman’s estate also endowed scholarships and research funds at USD and Black Hills State University.

“At this time of transition for the Chiesman Center, we celebrate both the proud history of the organization and its programs, and the exciting new opportunities that lie ahead in fulfilling Ms. Chiesman’s vision” Casey Murschel, chair of the board of the Chiesman Foundation, said.

The Chiesman Center will join the W.O. Farber Center for Civic Leadership and the Government Research Bureau in the Department of Political Science.

“The department is the first stop for elected and appointed officials, the media and citizens who seek to understand today’s most pressing challenges,” Earnest said. “With the addition of the Chiesman Center, USD’s experts will work closer than ever with South Dakotans to solve real-world problems.”

Dick Brown, vice chair of the board, said “The exceptional mission compatibility of this Farber-Chiesman Center partnership significantly advances the opportunity for enhanced South Dakota citizen education, civility in public discourse and policy-making engagement”.

The Chiesman Center for Democracy promotes and supports democratic principles and active civic engagement. Its vision is to have a citizenry that is actively aware, passionately engaged and involved in the democratic process. It emphasizes respect for the diversity of opinion that is essential to a healthy democracy.

Shane Nordyke, associate professor of political science, was named the director of the Center and the Allene R. Chiesman Distinguished Professor of Democracy.

“The Department of Political Science at USD has a longstanding commitment to the development of strong civic leaders,” Nordyke said. “Our existing expertise in education, community surveys and strategic planning will be valuable resources in pursuing Chiesman’s mission to support democratic principles and active civic engagement.”

“I am honored and excited to lead this new partnership and facilitate new opportunities for our students, communities and state,” Nordyke added.

For more information, visit the USD website, or email David C. Earnest at


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


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 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson 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 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News