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From the Hawks’ Nest: DSU in the National Arena

“From the Hawks’ Nest” is a monthly column by Dickinson State University President Steve Easton

Steve Easton.jpg
Dickinson State University President Steve Easton, author of the monthly column “From the Hawks’ Nest”

Dickinson State University’s primary mission is providing outstanding educational opportunities for learners in our region. We are proud of that mission. We work hard to fulfill it.

But DSU also has a presence in the national “arena,” to borrow an oft-repeated word from North Dakota’s favorite president, Theodore Roosevelt. Three recent events related to DSU’s TR endeavors illustrate DSU's national presence.

September Due to the efforts of the DSU Theodore Roosevelt Center’s indefatigable leader, Sharon Kilzer, our annual Theodore Roosevelt Symposium was, as usual, an impactful event that brought Roosevelt scholars and enthusiasts together.

We co-hosted the symposium with the Theodore Roosevelt Association, an organization headquartered in New York that was originally formed by attendees at Roosevelt’s funeral who wanted to keep the Roughrider President in the nation’s consciousness. We virtually hosted 152 participants from 32 states and two countries for discussions on the theme “Western Scenes, Western Friends.”

We did our best to entice our virtual visitors to come to southwestern North Dakota in the future. DSU TR scholars Clay Jenkinson and Dr. Stacy Cordery hosted a virtual tour of the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Several seminar participants told us they put a trip to the Badlands on their bucket lists.

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October Our vice president of academic affairs/provost, Dr. Debora Dragseth, and I virtually presented a lecture at New York’s Long Island University. The LIU Roosevelt and Global Service Institute Conference on Leadership and Service also featured such luminaries as General Wesley Clark, U.S. Army (retired), former NATO Supreme Allied Commander of Europe; Jessica Lynch, former Prisoner of War; Tweed Roosevelt, TR’s great-grandson; and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Maryland Lt. Governor.

Dr. Dragseth and I presented on our favorite subject: DSU students. We outlined how we use Roosevelt’s life as a basis for our leadership course. That course, which is part of the DSU Theodore Roosevelt Honors Leadership program (TRHLP), examines a variety of leadership styles and characteristics, with Roosevelt’s leadership as a jumping off point for a semester’s worth of discussions featuring an all-star panel of guest lecturers.

Our TRHLP course ends with each honors student doing a presentation on an aspect of Roosevelt’s life. With the help of Annika Plummer of DSU’s Department of Agriculture and Technical Studies, we were able to use our LIU presentation to share soundbites of DSU honors students summarizing their presentations and TRHLP alums discussing the honors program’s positive impact on their lives. We gave seminar attendees materials they can use to structure their own leadership courses around TR or other prominent leaders.

November Speaking of TRHLP, its director, the aforementioned Dr. Stacy Cordery, is the third example of DSU’s impact in the national arena. In November, Dr. Cordery, who is DSU’s Vaune and Dennis Johnson endowed chair in Theodore Roosevelt studies, was a headline presenter at the Jefferson Educational Society’s 2021 Global Summit in Erie, Pennsylvania, which also featured an evening with former president George W. Bush.

Dr. Cordery, a prominent historian of American first ladies, was highlighted on a panel entitled, The History and Role of First Ladies. Her fellow panelists were Anita McBride, who served as Laura Bush’s chief of staff, and Dr. Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. Steve Scully, a former White House correspondent and C-SPAN executive director, moderated the panel before an audience of four hundred.

Two former White House presidential chiefs of staff, Doris Kearns Goodwin, civil rights leader Clayola Brown, and U.S. Constitution Center director Jeffrey Rosen also spoke at the Global Summit.

Our strength in Theodore Roosevelt studies provides DSU an avenue to national prominence. At these national events, we sing the praises of DSU, Dickinson, the Badlands, and southwestern North Dakota. After all, it is our wonderful home and its connections to TR that provide the launching pad to these high-profile opportunities.

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