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DSU could become a polytechnic campus

Tom Mitzel, DSU president, spoke to city commissioners Tuesday about the university's efforts to help meet regional and state workforce needs. The university could become a polytechnic campus, offering two-year and certificate programs. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)

Dickinson State University could become a polytechnic campus, Tom Mitzel, DSU president, told city commissioners Tuesday.

To better meet regional and state workforce needs, DSU could begin offering certificate and license programs.

DSU was asked by the North Dakota University System to consider the change, Mitzel said.

Students in western North Dakota, he said, are "not able to get everything they need" for the workforce needs coming through the region.

"We're the only four-year institution within a 200-mile radius. We're the only institution in 100 miles. We have a large geographic area," he said. "We owe it to our students to be able to offer the education they want, when they want it and where they want it."

This would not represent a change of DSU's mission, he explained. It would remain a four-year liberal arts school.

Offering certificate, apprenticeship and associate programming would allow DSU to be "more flexible and ready to meet workforce needs."

"By becoming a polytechnic ... we can reach out to all of our students," Mitzel said.

Commissioner Carson Steiner supported the potential polytechnic education.

"I'm glad to see us going down that road," he said. "Not all high school seniors are fit for four-year programs. This is just another option."

He added, "We can't lose in this thing. I think we can only win."

Mayor Scott Decker said such a direction would be an "advantage" for Dickinson and DSU.

Mitzel also reported that the DSU Heritage Foundation is considering launching its first capital campaign.

"DSU has never really had a capital campaign in the history of its foundations," he said. "We don't have it in the public phase yet. You tend to do the private phase first, but we'll be rolling out the idea soon."

City commissioners also heard a report on the Dickinson Public Library from Library Director Rita Ennen.

The library in 2017, Ennen said, was open 5,318 hours, including 1,118 bookmobile hours. The bookmobile made 492 stops.

"It travels by far the most of any of those in North Dakota," Ennen said.

The library had 11,642 registered borrowers and received about 88,000 visitors in 2017. More than 105,000 items were circulated from its collection of 95,000 print materials and 7,700-plus videos. The library also has 26,000 digital books, Ennen reported.

In 2017, 29,000 people attended the library's 303 programs in 2017, including 19,000 children.

Its summer reading programs were especially popular, Ennen said.

"To see 104 teens come in, averaging 17 hours of reading in the summer, we get excited about that," she said. "That's kids involved in something that's going to help them stay on track so they're ready to succeed in school again in the fall."

Ennen also reported that the library's proposed expansion project is starting the design phase.

Dickinson Solid Waste Manager Aaron Praus requested $38,075 from commissioners Tuesday for a new conveyor for implementation of its upcoming recycling program.

The compactor unit approved by commissioners earlier this year to process recyclables for shipment is not compatible with the city's current equipment.

"The recommendation was to feed it with a conveyor system," Praus said. "It would be a lot safer method."

Praus also reported that the department has received a recycling partnership grant for roughly $56,000 for the city's recycling program.

"It's based on the number of recyclable containers we put out to our residents, up to 7,350 containers," he said. "It's $7 per container for the RFID technology, and $1 per container for the informational packet."

The radio-frequency identification technology is a tracking and management tool.

A special meeting of the city commissioners will be held Monday at 8 a.m. at Dickinson City Hall, 99 Second St., to induct newly elected commission members, appoint a vice president of the board, and appoint committee and board assignments.