ST. GEORGE, Utah — Sharing the progress being made on Dixie State University’s strategic plan, Dixie 2020: Status to Stature, DSU President Richard “Biff” Williams presented the annual State of the University Address on Wednesday morning.
“Three years ago, we created our strategic plan with you,” Williams told the audience. “We had six very distinctive goals and we came together in town hall meetings with the sole purpose to create a university that would go from having the status of a university to having the stature of a university. We have implemented this plan for two years, and we thought the first year had an incredible amount of progress. We’ve made even more progress in the second year, and that is due to a total commitment from our entire campus.”
Williams went on to share about the growth the institution has experienced in the past decade. From 2007 to 2017, Dixie State grew from offering nine academic degrees to 35. Additionally, the student body has increased by more than 4,000 individuals and faculty and staff has grown from 998 to 1,935 employees.
“Can you imagine what we will look like in 10 more years or what we will look like when our strategic plan is finished in 2020 and we start the next one,” Williams asked the crowd. “It is really exciting.”
While discussing the strategic plan’s first goal, which focuses on promoting student success, Williams shared that for the second year in a row, Dixie Sate welcomed its largest freshman class in school history this fall. Additionally, students are coming to DSU better prepared for college, as the number of students who had a high school GPA of 3.75 or higher increased by 32 percent.
To take care of its growing number of students, the university moved its Health & Counseling Center closer to campus and hired more providers to care for students’ physical and mental needs. Looking forward, DSU is continuing to emphasize student retention as it restructures the First Year Experience course that acclimates students to college life.
In line with Dixie State’s second strategic goal, which aims to broaden and enhance academic programs, the institution was approved this year to offer bachelor’s degrees in Bioinformatics, Applied Sociology, Studio Art, Information Systems & Analytics, Nursing, Population Health, Recreation & Sport Management. These additions bring the university’s number of bachelor’s degrees to 52 and total academic programs up to 188.
Additionally, the university is working toward offering its first master’s degrees in Accountancy, Software Development and Genetic Counseling as well as bachelor’s programs in Mechanical Engineering, Arts Production, Design, Applied & Computational Mathematics and Music Performance.
To support DSU’s growing number of programs, the university is preparing to break ground on a 155,000-square-foot Human Performance Center on Oct. 25 and open it ahead of the Fall 2019 semester. The facility will house the specialized classrooms and labs needed to offer allied health classes as well as campus’s recreation and intramural programs and fitness exercise facilities.
A Science, Engineering & Technology Building, which the Utah System of Higher Education recently ranked second for capital development prioritization for the next legislative session, is proposed to accommodate growth by housing engineering, chemistry, biology, physics, anatomy, physiology and genetic counseling programs.
Dixie State also is making progress on establishing its Innovation Plaza, which is planned to be in the former East Elementary building and house the university’s various technology and innovation centers. Already, the Innovation Guidance and Solutions Division has helped 119 students, faculty and community members develop products and businesses since its inception in October 2016.
Additionally, the university is bolstering its Dixie Online program by creating four online master’s courses, developing online teaching certificate and microcredentialing programs and adding or revising 16 online courses.
In an effort to invest in faculty and staff and accomplish the plan’s third goal, Dixie State made equity adjustments to salaries, enhanced employee benefits at a reduced cost to employees and the university and awarded $132,000 in professional development funds and $515,000 in tuition waivers.
As part of Goal Four, which aims to enhance inclusion and equity, the university expanded its multicultural efforts by hosting a variety of diversity events and training programs, increasing recruiting efforts to minorities and placing a renewed focus on International Student Services.
As part of this goal, Dixie State has increased women in leadership to 35 percent, minorities in administration to 12 percent and minorities in faculty and staff positions to 13 percent, surpassing the set goals. To continue increasing campuswide minority numbers, which currently are at 23 percent, DSU is creating a retention plan for underrepresented students and forming a Diversity and Inclusivity Council.
To engage with the southern Utah region as part of Goal Five, DSU increased engaged learning opportunities and created the Institute of Politics & Public Affairs and the Community Engagement Center. Last academic year, the campus community volunteered 204,483 community service hours — over 50,000 hours more than the previous year. Additionally, the community is engaging with the university, with more than 200 individuals volunteering as mentors to Dixie State students.
To further community engagement efforts, the university is creating the Trailblazer Engagement Center this year and organizing Dixie Serves as a network center for Southern Utah service and volunteerism.
As part of Goal Six, which centers around establishing a strong brand and identity, the Trailblazer Nation app was created to enhance the game day experience. Thanks to the Utah Legislature’s support, Dixie State Athletics resurfaced the track and field in Legend Solar Stadium and is adding a 5,000-seat grandstand complex to the east side.
The university also implemented community projects such as the Trailblazers Art in the City project, which places hand-painted bison statues around St. George to beautify the city and instill communitywide pride in Trailblazer Nation.
Among the future plans for Goal Six, DSU is working toward increasing academic and wellness initiatives for student-athletes and starting a robust annual giving and digital alumni engagement program.
“We are the fastest growing university in Utah,” Williams said in closing. “We are a university that changes the lives of our students. We’re blazing new trails and would like you to follow that path with us.”
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