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2,000 put imagination into plan for SDSU's future

SDSU President Barry Dunn explains the school's plans to the Mitchell Rotary Club at the Ramada Conference Center on Thursday afternoon. (Ellen Bardash / Republic)

South Dakota State University has developed a new strategic plan called Imagine 2023 based around, as the name suggests, imagination.

SDSU President Barry Dunn outlined the four main parts of that plan at a Mitchell Rotary Club meeting Thursday afternoon.

Each part of the plan, which Dunn said more than 2,000 people helped to develop, is aimed at making SDSU a "premier land-grant university."

"It's actually our land grant mission to serve you, so I come today with a servant heart," Dunn said.

All four parts of the plan have something to do with creating something new or improving on something that already exists.

The first part Dunn identified was achieving excellence through transformative education, which essentially means that SDSU is going to try to contribute to South Dakota's workforce as much as possible by continuing to add accredited programs such as the precision agriculture program, which is the first and only program of its kind in the country.

The second point of the plan revolves around strengthening SDSU's connections to the community as much as possible, and the third is based on increasing research, scholarship and creative activity, which Dunn referred to as RSCA.

The fourth and final part of the plan is to be a growing and high-performing university, which Dunn said is being accomplished by the addition of newly constructed features such as SDSU's new performing arts center.

Dunn had help explaining parts of this plan from Steve Erpenbach, president and CEO of the SDSU Foundation, Jill Thorngren, dean of education and human sciences, Senior Associate Athletic Director Scott Brown and Dean of Agriculture John Killefer.

SDSU is South Dakota's only land grant university. Provided through a program started by Abraham Lincoln in the middle of the Civil War, when the only way for the government to fund schools was by giving them land, each state has one land grant school. These schools are supported by base funding from the Department of Agriculture and have access to special grants not available to other institutions.

"We'll never be the largest, but we can be excellent at everything we do. That's the vision of these great young people that helped develop this plan."