Dixie State University’s President Richard B. Williams evaluated progress and looked at the future of DSU’s strategic plan during his annual State of the University Address Sept. 20.
Williams overviewed DSU’s strategic plan, Dixie 2020: Status to Stature. The plan has been in effect since 2015 and encompasses six goals, which upon completion, are meant to shape DSU’s institutional image.
Williams said DSU is over halfway to reaching its goals.
“We have implemented this plan for two years; we thought the first year was just an incredible amount of progress,” Williams said. “But you’ll see today that we’ve made even more progress during the second year, and that is due to a total commitment from our campus.”
He noted DSU’s progress from 2007 to 2017 by acknowledging the approximate 9,700 students currently at the university, which is about a 4,000 head increase in 10 years. Faculty and staff numbers have grown as well by over 1,000 employees. DSU had just nine degrees, but today it offers 38 bachelor’s degree programs. These new degree programs open doors to students who can now pursue their field of choice at DSU, Williams said.
Goal one: Student success
The first goal of the strategic plan is to promote student success and boost retention and completion rates.
DSU established a new Health and Counseling Center with a new director, and for the first time, a full-time mental health professional on staff. Williams also mentioned students are entering DSU better prepared for college. Thirty-two percent more students with a high school GPA of 3.75 or higher were admitted this year than last.
The next step toward achieving goal one, Williams said, is to restructure the First Year Experience courses, which are meant to help freshmen with the adjustment to college. They will also be developing a faculty-training course on Canvas. A top priority of the plan is to focus on student retention.
Goal two: Academic programs
The addition of new academic programs through goal two will aid with retention. It will also help with recruitment and growth of the student body. The aim is to increase the number of bachelor’s degree programs to 42, and introduce three master’s programs in Accountancy, Software Development and Genetic Counseling. From 2016 to 2017, seven new baccalaureate degrees were added, and bachelor’s programs in Mechanical Engineering, Arts Production, Design, Applied & Computational Mathematics and Music Performance are under works.
Student Body President Ezra Hainsworth, a senior communication major from St. George, said he is confident DSU’s enrollment will either reach or be extremely close to the goal of 15,000 students by 2020.
“We are having better retention with more degrees, especially with the new master’s programs that will be implemented in the next year or two,” Hainsworth said. “We’ll be able to maintain our students and grow because of how new and exciting all of this growth is.”
As a student ambassador, Olivia Lee, a junior media studies major from Las Vegas, plays a part in the recruitment process. When she visits high schools to recruit freshmen, Lee said she sees an excitement and eagerness to learn about DSU from students.
“It’s awesome how eager people are to come to St. George, to come to Dixie [and] to see these things,” Lee said. “All of the efforts that are put in and all of the plans we’re going through really are working.”
Another key factor in goal two is the expansion of campus. There are two new buildings in the works, the Human Performance Center, which is already in the planning phase, and the Science, Engineering, and Technology Building, which has been rated No. 1 for need by the board of regents. DSU has also occupied the old East Elementary campus, which is now called Innovation Plaza.
“Not only is the [Human Performance Center] great academically, but recreationally as well,” Hainsworth said. “Students really wanted a new rec center, and that’s what they’re getting. It’s awesome.”
Goal three: Invest in faculty and staff
Investing in faculty and staff members is the focus of the next goal, which has been accomplished in part by adding new hires, enhancing benefits and more professional development.
DSU has updated over 300 staff job descriptions to better reflect employee work load. New benefit plans enhanced employee benefits at a reduced cost to them and the university. Also, all hiring policies and procedures were updated to ensure DSU is recruiting the best employees. Professional development and training was an area of interest to faculty and staff, and DSU delivered on that need.
“We have a great faculty and staff,” Willams said. “They’re ones who have this ‘Dixie’ spirit that we talk about. They really put their hearts and souls into the university.”
Goal four: Diversity
Goal four is to increase campus diversity.
Williams wants students to see diversity on campus, not only in students, but also mirrored in faculty and staff as well.
Twenty diversity events have been held at DSU in the last year, and campus training programs have been implemented to foster inclusiveness. All employees were required to participate in SafeColleges training and Title IX training. DSU has also implemented Diversity Advocate training and Safe Zone training.
The Chief Diversity Officer Doajo Hicks and Daneka Souberbielle, associate dean of student inclusiveness and director of the Multicultural Inclusion Center, had instrumental positions in integrating diversity on campus.
Goal five: Community engagement
Goal five is centered on community involvement and volunteer programs.
These efforts have included service projects, the Institute for Continued Learning, the DSU Institute of Politics, community-wide DSU events like the St. George Fourth of July Concert and the Kite Festival, and other community outreach programs.
Goal six: Brand and identity
The final goal of the plan is to establish a strong brand for DSU to strengthen its identity.
This step began with the rebrand of the athletic identity as Trailblazers and continues in reinforcement of that identity through marketing and promotional strategies.
The strategic planning committee has continues to strengthen the athletic programs and visibility, forging alliances with the community, and developing a marketing strategy.
The marketing strategy includes digital marketing campaigns, community marketing, social media marketing, events and facility branding.
Each year, the univeristy marketing and communication department work on a viewbook and other resources, which go out to prospective students and help with recruitment efforts.
“[The marketing resources] are making Dixie look mighty fine,” Lee said.
The goal to strengthen DSU’s identity concluded Williams’ overview of the plan.
“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?” he said.
He asked the audience to help spread the “good word” about DSU and it’s advancements and plans for the future.
“We are the fastest growing university,” Williams said. “We are a university that changes the lives of our students. We’re blazing new trails, and we’d like you to follow that path with us.”