VERMILLION, S.D. – Excitement and energy surround the University of South Dakota, as the university moves forward on new transformative capital projects on campus and experiences national recognition for being the best public university in South Dakota and North Dakota, said USD President Sheila K. Gestring during this year’s State of the University address, held Sept. 23 in Aalfs Auditorium.
Two of the large campus projects referenced in her address include the university’s new School of Health Sciences building and Wellness Center expansion, which will be completed in 2022 and 2024, respectively.
USD recently was recognized as the best public university in both South Dakota and North Dakota by the U.S. News & World Report, and five of the university’s students were honored with national scholarships and prestigious awards, Gestring noted.
During the address, Gestring said the university has made excellent progress toward achieving the goals outlined in USD’s strategic plan.
One of the goals focuses on affordability and providing students access to a first-class education efficiently and effectively. Gestring pointed to the state’s new PREMIER Scholarship program and recognized the generosity of First PREMIER Bank, PREMIER Bankcard, T. Denny Sanford, the state of South Dakota, Sanford Health and Avera Health for their contributions in helping fund a $200 million endowment that will fund future needs-based scholarships in perpetuity.
USD has also been focused on increasing its own financial resources for students, including establishing an emergency fund for students and growing USD’s new Coyote Career Kickstart program. Coyote Career Kickstart connects USD students to financial support through meaningful work opportunities, alumni mentors, professional development tools and soft skills training. This year, USD will serve more than 60 students who seek to offset their educational expenses while simultaneously obtaining a head start on their career.
In support of the vision presented in the strategic plan, USD continues to serve South Dakota and the world in new and innovative ways. One example of this is the Beacom School of Business Coyote Business Consulting, Gestring said. This program, launched as a response to the economic challenges presented by the pandemic, was created with the specific goal of contributing to the economic development and sustainability of small businesses in the state. The program enabled student teams, with the guidance of faculty advisors, to help analyze businesses, focusing on critical issues within the organization, creating solutions to maintain viability and enhancing competitiveness. Through Coyote Business Consulting, USD students supported 56 small businesses throughout South Dakota in 2020.
A comprehensive strategic plan can be found at usd.edu/strategicplan.
Gestring noted a number of campus projects currently underway, and shared information about new campus construction about to commence.
An expansion of the Wellness Center will begin in the summer of 2022. The $25 million project will add an estimated 45,800 gross square-feet to the facility to house a new, indoor 50-meter competition pool and seating for 400 people. There will also be a 40-by-25-foot wellness pool, wet classroom, hot tub that accommodates 25 users, steam room, athletic locker rooms, expanded wellness locker rooms, meet management rooms, coaches’ offices and lifeguard rooms. There will also be a customizable obstacle course, called NinjaCross, that can be raised or lowered from the ceiling.
After closing its doors in 2018, the National Music Museum will open the Lillibridge Wing, the 16,000 square-foot expansion to the Carnegie building, to the public. The Lillibridge Wing includes a new museum store, the Janet L. Wanzek Performance Hall, the Groves Gallery for Special Exhibitions and the Wohlenberg Administrative Suite.
In April of this year, USD broke ground on the new, 3-story, 45,000 square-foot School of Health Sciences building. At the same time, USD also announced a $1 million gift from the Delta Dental of South Dakota Foundation, which will support USD’s dental hygiene program. In honor of the gift, the new community dental hygiene clinic at USD will be named the Delta Dental Oral Health Center.
The College of Fine Arts has seen significant and exciting changes within the last year. The $2.1 million renovation of Knutson Theatre was completed in October 2020. The $1 million Colton Recital Hall renovations are set to be completed in October of this year.
The new, outdoor sculpture yard, which is located on the north side of the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts building, was recently completed. This space provides a place to safely carve wood and stone, creates a secure location for large-scale iron pours and allows for the construction of a larger iron melting furnace and equipment.
Gestring reported that despite the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presented, USD has continued to move forward with its priorities and offer excellent instruction and support to its students. During the pandemic, USD researchers were at the forefront of discovery, and as community and alumni, USD helped the Vermillion Area Chamber & Development Company raise over $190,000 in Vermillion Victory Bonds during Dakota Days. USD also supported students during the pandemic by distributing nearly $10 million in federal grant funding to students in need through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funding program. In addition to student grants, USD received over $13 million in federal funds to cover expenses that benefited students such as technology, personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning, testing and facility improvements.
Enrollment trends still reflect the reality of delivering an educational experience in the middle of a global pandemic, Gestring said. The university’s overall enrollment was relatively stable, though USD experienced growth in the graduate school and professional schools, and saw record growth for incoming international students.
“Especially when taken in the context of national enrollment trends, the status of enrollment at USD is encouraging,” Gestring said. “We have welcomed a great class of new students into our Coyote community, and we continue to offer the high-quality educational experience that USD is known for.”
To watch the recorded address, visit the USD Facebook page.