New center plans, hirings, school spirit highlights of President Williams third year in office

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Dixie State University’s growth is not just measured by the increasing number of students arriving each year. 

President Biff Williams said there will be 42 degree programs at DSU by fall of 2018, and new buildings like the Human Performance Center are becoming closer to reality. Along with the continuation of the Trailblazer brand, Williams said the new degrees and obtaining the funding for new buildings on campus are some of DSU’s biggest accomplishments for his third academic year in office.

Human Performance Center

The Human Performance Center, which will be a 150,000-square-foot recreation center on campus with Olympic-sized pools, will break ground in September after getting its funding approved from the state legislature in February. While the plans for the Human Performance Center have been in the works for several years, Williams said it took “an army” to finally get funding approved for the building at the 2017 state legislative session. 

Williams said the design of the Human Performance Center will start May 17 when the architect is announced. 

“We’ve already identified that we need gymnasiums, a rock wall, a pool and those sorts of things, but the architect will come in and say if that’s realistic,” Williams said.  

Williams said he has been working with students and Ezra Hainsworth, the student body president-elect, to hear suggestions on what people want in the Human Performance Center. Williams said Hainsworth brought a lot of good “food for thought” suggestions, but some of the suggestions students had for the building were unrealistic. 

“The funny [suggestion] was an Xbox 360 room,” Williams said with a laugh. “Isn’t that just your dorm room? I don’t even know what that room is.” 

Other construction projects planned for DSU include two new student-housing complexes in the northeast corner of campus, the final stage of the Legend Solar Stadium renovations, an expanded dining center, a parking garage, and a renovated Science Building, Williams said.

Hiring faculty and administrators

Williams said one of his goals is to hire more faculty and cover faculty and staff members’ raises with funds from the state and the 4-7 percent increase in tuition for the fall. As far as the university cabinet goes, Williams said they are “well-built,” and hirings in administrative positions will now start to plateau. 

“There are millions of things that have to be monitored at a university to ensure that the students are going to get exactly what they need to be successful when they leave,” Williams said. “We’re missing a lot of infrastructure, and every year, we’re trying to look at what we are putting in place to help our students.”

Hiring new tutors at the Student Success Center and new therapists at the Health and Wellness Center this past year was a start to fulfilling the needs at DSU, Williams said. He said the next issue to tackle with new hirings is providing assistants to the academic deans. 

“[Academic deans] are kind of a one-person show right now,” Williams said. “At a true university, you have associate deans who are working with the curriculum and those things, so I think we’ll have to add associate deans.”

Williams said other employees DSU still needs to hire is nighttime police officers, which will come as funds become available to make new hires.

Student retention and spirit 

Williams said one of the biggest problems at DSU is student retention. One of the biggest reasons student retention is low at DSU is because of its open enrollment status. 

“Being an open-access university, we get students from all walks of life,” Williams said. “It’s not like you just have brainiacs, middle-of-the-road students, or those that are really going to struggle; you have all of them. We’re working on getting all of them engaged.” 

Williams said some of the efforts that have been made at DSU to increase student retention include structured enrollment and a larger student success center with more tutors.

DSU is unlikely to have its open enrollment status changed anytime soon because that change is dictated by the state board of regents, Williams said. 

School spirit is another focus for the president. Williams said he created a “fandom committee” this past year with Hainsworth and other students to promote school spirit at athletic games and other campus events. 

“We haven’t figured out how we cheer as Trailblazers,” Williams said. “We’re figuring those things out still.”

Hainsworth, a junior communication major from St. George, said he’s creating fight songs and cheers specific to DSU and the Trailblazers. 

Sarah Ramaker, the current student body president and a senior dance major from Midland, Michigan, said Hainsworth will be key in increasing school spirit at DSU.

“[Hainsworth] has a passion for Dixie, and he has a lot of high energy,” Ramaker said. “He’ll do a great job.”

Williams said he is looking forward to seeing all the changes coming to the university next year. 

“And I can’t wait to see what the enrollment will be in the fall,” Williams said. “It’ll be interesting.”