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NOVAK: DWU’s growth demonstrates symbiotic relationship with Mitchell, area

By Amy Novak

President of Dakota Wesleyan University

Mitchell, South Dakota, is more than the last line on the address for Dakota Wesleyan University.

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From the beginning, more than 129 years ago, our university rose above the prairies because our early townspeople looked upon these Methodist visionaries as neighbors, members of a community that would plant, nurture and grow a place for holistic human development -- body, mind and soul. The university grew, not apart from its community, but because of it.

Last week, as Dakota Wesleyan University opened the Glenda K. Corrigan Health Sciences Center, we were reminded once again of the importance of community partnerships -- not just to add a state-of-the art facility, but rather, to witness the realization of a dream to make Mitchell the launching point for thousands of future leaders in health care and sciences.

Our new health sciences center is indeed Mitchell's new health sciences center. It is made possible not only by the generosity of the Corrigan, Christen and Gates families, but also from numerous contributions directly from our Mitchell community.

Our future looks bright, and strengthening our partnership with Mitchell remains a top priority for DWU. We value our working relationship with L.B. Williams Elementary School and the entire Mitchell School District, where you will find our future teachers working alongside experienced teachers in the classroom. More than 70 percent of the Avera nurses in Mitchell are DWU nursing graduates, and Avera Queen of Peace's monetary commitment of support for of our new facility illustrates the mutually beneficial value of partnerships.

A symbiotic relationship between university and community strengthens our economic vitality and ensures a strong labor force in countless industries. Whether DWU faculty and students are providing support and physical space to run the Mitchell Weekend Snack Pack Program, collaborating with local telecommunication companies to provide software design expertise or offering support to small business start-ups through the Kelley Center for Entrepreneurship, the result is a win-win opportunity. Our students learn valuable skills. Community businesses tap the university's knowledge assets. Local nonprofit requests find eager students willing to step in and help.

Moreover, countless businesses and nonprofits in the region support our students as they participate in internships, provide advice to DWU faculty regarding our curriculum and demonstrate support through involvement as mentors, athletic contributors, advisory council members and generous donors. In the end, post-secondary education brings more than 2,000 people into Mitchell as active participants in our economy, culture and community.

Regardless of what past perceptions people may hold about DWU in the Mitchell community, I can assure you, as its 20th president, our future is only as successful as our community partnerships.

This is our community, and this is our university. I do not separate the vitality of one from the other, because to me they both make up what I (and many others) call "home."

As we look to our future, I invite you to be a part of the exciting and enriching experiences our university has to offer. From crisp fall afternoons at Joe Quintal field, to the beautiful melodies inside the Sherman Center at Christmas; from our hosting of the South Central South Dakota Science Fair, to nationally recognized lecturers; from the roar of a Corn Palace crowd, to a quiet walk on our beautiful campus when the leaves begin to carpet the last green blades of grass -- I invite you to share our joy of being your university.