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WILSON: We strive to make a difference for our students

When I interviewed to become DSU's Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs in December of 2015, I was impressed by the dedication of the University's staff and faculty to ensuring students succeed in their educational experiences. Since m...

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When I interviewed to become DSU's Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs in December of 2015, I was impressed by the dedication of the University's staff and faculty to ensuring students succeed in their educational experiences. Since moving to Dickinson 18 months ago, I have witnessed that dedication nearly every day. Moreover, I, like my colleagues, am grateful for the remarkable support we receive from the Dickinson community. That support and collaborative spirit have allowed us to move Dickinson State University forward in our quest to create the best possible learning and living environment for all of our students.

We have made a number of changes to better serve our students. Shortly after I arrived, we restructured our academic advising model. Departments now have the option of utilizing professional advisors for first and second year students. Students appreciate the accessibility of these professional advisors.

More recently, we have created a Student Opportunities and Resource (SOAR) Center on the second floor of May Hall. Research in higher education consistently demonstrates that those students who feel connected to other students have higher success rates than those who do not.

The SOAR Center is designed to foster a sense of community by locating our student support services in one area. It includes our professional advising center, campus activities, international and multicultural programming, tutoring and academic success, TRiO, and disability and career services. Most areas have space for students to study and relax. We also have opened a One Stop shop on the first floor of May Hall.

The One Stop is designed to be just that - one place where students can go to take care of the majority of the business they need to do and get answers to nearly all of their questions.

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Additionally, we continue to make changes in our residence life program. When I arrived, the occupancy in our residence halls was 41 percent. Imagine living in a building that was nearly 60 percent empty. Such an experience does not help foster a sense of community. We made the decision to take one of our halls off line to increase the occupancy of the other halls. This year, our occupancy rate in our main residence hall is nearly 90 percent. We also have three living learning communities in the hall, and students are enjoying living with other students who share their interests.

We have several new initiatives in Academic Affairs as well. As of this fall, our Department of Business and Management has become the School of Business and Entrepreneurship, reflecting our increased emphasis on linking business classes with other majors to provide our students the skills to start their own businesses in their areas of passion. We continue to develop programs to support the North Dakota University System's goal of providing the types of degrees students want where they live. To that end, we launched several new programs this fall.

First, we have a new online ADRN to BSN program that allows students who have their associate degree in registered nursing and are working as nurses to earn their Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. Second, we were delighted to receive approval from the Higher Learning Commission to offer a Master of Arts in Teaching. Like the online nursing program, this online degree is for individuals in the workforce who have degrees in a specific subject area that would like to become teachers. Finally, we launched certificate programs in Horse Production and Graphic Design this fall as well.

We have made great strides in enhancing the educational experience for our students, and I am eager to continue to work with our campus community as we strive to make a difference in the lives of each and every one of our students.

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