Work has begun in earnest on the campus site of the new home for the Dakota Wesleyan University business program.

A year after a groundbreaking ceremony celebrated the new vision from the school, contractors are now working to construct the new two-story DWU School of Business and Innovation. The project is progressing well and a completion date is set for fall 2021, Theresa Kriese, executive vice president for DWU, told the Mitchell Republic recently.

“We are very excited to have the construction underway,” Kriese said. “It’s nice to see it get off the ground, literally. We gave the contractor the go-ahead in June, and the foundations are being set and we are moving forward.”

The new addition to campus has been years in the making. Looking to consolidate under one roof its business school, which currently has offices and classrooms in various other buildings around campus, the school applied for federal funding sources to help make that vision a reality in 2018. The United States Department of Agriculture awarded the school a $14.5 million loan that would be used primarily for the construction of the new building.

Also contributing to the new structure were over 60 community and alumni donors, including seven-figure donations from the Mary Cottingham Estate, Ron Sr. and Sheilah Gates, Roger and Vicki Musick and Mark and Vicki Miller Taggart.

The new business school comes with an estimated cost of $6.7 million, but the benefits that it will bring to campus, its students and the community is immeasurable, Kriese said. Having the program faculty and classrooms primarily in one building will make the building a focal point for staff and students, enhancing the learning experience by having everyone involved in a single location.

“The nice part of this facility is that it will allow us to get our school of business under one roof. It lends itself to greater collaboration between programs and it lends to more student exposure and a well-rounded experience just having it in their presence,” Kriese said.

The planned 30,000-square-foot, two-story building will have many features, including the Institute for Rural Development and the Kelley Center for Entrepreneurship. The building will include classrooms equipped for modern and future technologies, along with lab and classroom space for students to work in small groups or teams to complete assignments or projects.

Work continues on the foundation for Dakota Wesleyan University's School of Business Innovation and Leadership building on Monday. The building is being constructed on the southeast side of the university's campus in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Work continues on the foundation for Dakota Wesleyan University's School of Business Innovation and Leadership building on Monday. The building is being constructed on the southeast side of the university's campus in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)

But one of the biggest advantages the new building will bring is simple: space.

“One nice component of this facility is that it is larger. It’s not as big as (the Sherman Center), but it will have a nice-sized meeting area to host seminars,” Kriese said.

Kriese said the total construction time is expected to be between 16 and 18 months if building conditions and factors like supply chain integrity remain favorable for the project. At this point, she said she expects completion to come at right around that target date, as work has progressed well over the last month.

But some things will undoubtedly remain out of the school’s control, she said. The outbreak of COVID-19 around the country and the world has disrupted some supply chains and workforces, but that has not had an apparent impact on construction at this time.

“We will wait to see with transportation for supplies. The transportation industry is doing all it can in the light of COVID-19, but we haven’t seen any (slowdown) yet, and we’re not anticipating anything yet. We just have to be prepared just in case,” Kriese said.

The new facility will also benefit the school in an indirect way. Part of the USDA loan used for construction of the building will also go toward paying down some of the university’s debt load at a low interest rate over the next 40 years.

Any improvement that makes the educational experience at DWU better is worth it for the faculty, students and staff, as well as the community at large, which was a requirement of the USDA funding. The new business center will allow the school to continue its mission of serving Mitchell and the smaller area communities that are part of the tapestry of the greater Mitchell area.

“We believe ourselves to be a university of our community and region, and anything we can do to enhance the region can help those rural communities,” Kriese said. “It can help them develop and prosper because it’s all about rural survival.”

Come 2021, DWU students will have a chance to study in a new state-of-the-art facility, and Kriese said that those students will strengthen the foundation of the school that looks to improve life and learning to everyone in the community.

“It’s a partnership. We can’t survive without the region, and we hope the region sees us as an integral part, as well,” Kriese said.