Gestring Highlights Efforts for Student Support, New Programs and Enrollment Growth During Address
Gestring emphasized several initiatives designed to support student growth and success, including the Opportunity Center and the Student Counseling Center.
The Opportunity Center, now in its second full year on campus, is a central connection point for campus resources and aims to remove barriers to student success. Last year, the Opportunity Center made contact with 5,000 students through its programming and office hours, both in Vermillion and at USD – Sioux Falls. It yielded incredible results: 157 students were individually counseled, with 89.9% of those students retained or graduated.
Gestring also shared USD’s strides in making mental health services more accessible to its students. The Student Counseling Center moved to a larger, more centralized location on campus that serves as home to all counselors and provides a space for relaxation and a group room for educational classes and therapy groups. USD is also partnering with Christie Campus Health to provide students with a crisis response program 24/7
“While we know we cannot completely prevent or eliminate mental health struggles for our students, we are focused on identifying students who may be at-risk and providing them with the tools they need to overcome these struggles with professional assistance,” Gestring said
Last week, USD released enrollment data that showed the university yet again broke records in several key areas including first-time, full-time students from South Dakota and Nebraska, international students and students enrolled in high-demand health sciences graduate programs. This fall, USD welcomed its largest main campus incoming class since 2018. International enrollment broke its record for the third consecutive year, totaling 606 total international students. Pre-nursing, pre-dental hygiene and the Ph.D. in health sciences saw noteworthy increases in enrollment. Enrollment at USD – Sioux Falls is also growing, with a 4.4% increase in total enrollment. This puts USD – Sioux Falls on target with the five-year enrollment plan presented to the South Dakota Board of Regents and the state legislature.
In April, USD broke ground on its new $31.25 million Wellness Center expansion, which will add an estimated 45,800 gross square feet to the Wellness Center and will house a new indoor competition pool and seating for approximately 500 people. There will also be a recreation pool, wet classroom, hot tub, steam room, athletic locker rooms, expanded wellness locker rooms and more.
In June, USD celebrated the expansion of the Parry Center for Clinical Skills & Simulation in Sioux Falls. The Parry Center is a state-of-the-art learning environment that allows collaboration among students and safely simulates real-patient experiences. It is available to the USD Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, affiliated residency programs and health care providers. The expansion added 2,800 square feet to the existing 6,850 square feet of the center. It includes a complete operating room, an OR wash station, a post-anesthesia care unit, an intensive care unit, three high-fidelity simulation rooms and four control rooms.
“This expansion greatly improves our ability to train practice-ready professionals for tomorrow’s workforce,” said Gestring. “Through simulated scenarios and lifelike experiences, students gain the hands-on training they need to cultivate confidence, teamwork and critical thinking. Most importantly, they learn how to care for the complexities of a patient with empathy. This is what makes our students stand out in the workforce.”
Gestring pointed to new programs that are equipping students with the skills they need to become future leaders in the state’s workforce.
The College of Fine Arts introduced a Bachelor of Science in music with a specialization in industry and technology – the first program of its kind in the state. This program develops music industry leaders with a unique blend of technical, business, communication and musical skills.
To address the demand for teachers in South Dakota, the School of Education now offers a Bachelor of Science in Education in Elementary Education at USD – Sioux Falls, providing Sioux Falls-area students with new educational opportunities close to home.
As the state’s only medical school and comprehensive School of Health Sciences, USD has responded to filling gaps in the health care workforce. The School of Health Science achieved full accreditation for its Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice program, making USD the only public university in the state to offer this much-needed degree.
To accelerate health care education and better meet the state’s need for social workers, USD developed a first-of-its-kind 3+2 partnership with Northern State University, which provides sociology students guaranteed acceptance into USD’s Master of Social Work program.
The College of Arts & Sciences introduced a new Ph.D. in Data Science and Engineering program, offered in partnership with South Dakota Mines & Technology. This interdisciplinary degree prepares students to design and implement cutting-edge data analysis solutions, make data-driven decisions, and develop innovative data-driven products and services.
“We are so proud of the success of our faculty, staff, students and alumni,” Gestring said. “As a testament to the quality education they receive at USD, our graduates consistently demonstrate remarkable achievements across many fields and industries. They are a reflection of USD’s commitment to excellence and lifelong learning, and I am continually impressed by their dedication to positively impact our world.”