Utah native visits DSU to share published work

Dixie State University’s Visiting Writers Program showcased another Utah native’s written works Thursday.

Every fall semester, DSU’s English department invites a visiting writer to share their pieces with the community. Cindy King, an assistant English professor, said while this event gives writers a chance to publicly share their stories, it is ultimately there to serve students and the community. 

“It’s designed for the students to help them see a professional writer in action,” King said. “Many of the writers I’ve seen both here at [DSU] and as a graduate student are professional, self-sustaining writers who don’t even teach [because] they’re actually making a living off their work.”

This year Kimberly Johnson, an award-winning poet and professor at Brigham Young University, performed her poetry series “Uncommon Prayers.” 

The series focuses on storytelling through an inanimate object or animal’s perspective. From replicating the thoughts of a bug zapper to every minute detail of someone castrating sheep using his or her teeth, Johnson’s poetry explores the inner workings of everyday things people may not stop to think twice about. 

“It is not just about being in the presence of art, [but] it is also about sitting yourself down for 60 minutes and giving your brain over to somebody else’s thinking,” Johnson said.

Associate English professor Susan Ertel, who has attended almost all of the Visiting Writer Program events at DSU, said she was impressed by Johnson’s word choice and ability to convey her poetry to the public.  

“She does use words that kind of stretch your imagination and think, ‘Oh I wish I had a dictionary,’ but there’s so much other stuff that is really appealing that you don’t feel shut out because of the vocabulary,” Ertel said. “You feel like she’s opening a door saying, ‘Come on in play with these words with me for a minute.'”

While poetic pieces can be read silently, Johnson said performing her poetry for an audience brings another dimension to her work.

“Poems love to have sound effects happening [because] the voice is such an expressive instrument,” Johnson said. “Poetry, unlike other literary art forms, relies upon sound in order to communicate its ideas either through rhyme or rhythm so a poem that is read aloud is a poem that is living its full life.”

Before Johnson returns home, she will also be hosting a Craft Talk at 2 p.m. in the Jeffrey R. Holland Centennial Commons Building in room 471 on Dec. 1.

During the spring semester, a visiting fiction writer will also visit DSU for a live reading, which anyone can attend free of charge.

Then, now: DSU athletics has stepped up from junior college status

    Dixie State University athletics program has been along the ride as DSU has changed over the years, physically and as an institution. 

   DSU joined the NCAA Division II and began competing in Pacific West Conference in 2006. Since then, DSU athletic teams made 33 appearances in the NCAA tournament and won 18 PacWest Conference Championships.


   To eligibly compete in the NCAA, academics must be a focus for all athletes. According to  NCAA.org, certain criteria has to be met, such as taking an ACT or SAT, graduating high school with completion of 16 core courses, earning at least a 2.0 GPA in core courses, and sending an official transcript to the NCAA Eligibility Center. 

   According to  NCAA.org, in order to compete at a junior college level, student athletes must be a graduate of high school, have an approved GED, or have an approved high school equivalency test. 

   Ross Decker, assistant coach of the women’s cross country and women’s distance track team, began coaching in 2008. But he fondly remembers Dixie’s years in the NJCAA.

   During his time as a math professor, Decker remembered four of his students who played basketball in the junior college level who later went on to play in the NBA. One of them is Lionel Hollins, who recently coached the Brooklyn Nets. Hollins was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in 1975. 

   “From a fan’s perspective, it was kind of fun with the junior college level teams because a lot of times we’d get outstanding athletes who didn’t have the grades to compete in NCAA due to academics,” Decker said. 

   In Dixie’s junior college days, Decker said the school had good rivalries with Snow College, Ricks College, which later became Brigham Young University-Idaho, and Utah Valley University, which used to be a junior college. 

   “That’s one of the things I miss now that we’ve been in the NCAA is we haven’t really had a good rival,” he said.

Looking to the future

   As DSU’s athletic program continues to compete in the NCAA, more changes are approaching.

  DSU recently signed 21 players: three in women’s volleyball, three in women’s basketball, one in men’s golf, two in women’s golf, three in women’s swimming, five in baseball, and four in softball. 

    “Signing new student athletes is a great way to recruit new students and also allows for more diversity on our campus,” said Jaclyn Kerouac, NCAA advisor and eligibility coordinator. “Some of the students who are recruited to play sports at DSU come from different areas of the country that otherwise may never be visited by DSU recruiters.” 

  As one of the changes, Kerouac said the NCAA will be using a sliding sclae for ACT scores. 

   “So, if a student has a super high GPA in the core 16 classes, then his or her ACT score can be lower, or vice versa.” 

   All athletic teams will also begin competing in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in the 2018-19 academic year, which football has already been competing in since 2016.

   Since Jason Boothe’s start as athletic director in 2010, DSU has added women’s golf, women’s swimming and women’s track. The university is also currently undergoing a Title IX review to see if any more women’s sports need to be added.

   “We gained a lot more national prominence mostly because of the success of our teams,” Boothe said. “We’ve definitely grown.” 

Dixie’s past: Tradition or racism?

Dixie State University has faced controversy over the years surrounding its name and history.

   Dixie is a regional name for the Southern U.S., historically those states that belonged to the Confederate States of America. Although Utah was not part of the Confederacy, Washington County and the St. George area have come to adopt the Dixie name.

   However, devotion to the Confederacy is written in DSU’s past. In the 1950s, Dixie Junior College adopted the Rebel, a Confederate soldier, to represent its athletic identity and often used the Confederate flag as one of its symbols. Students proudly waved the Stars and Stripes in their blissful ignorance, heedlessly promoting years of oppression and violence against African-Americans.

   It is maintained that the Dixie name stems solely from Southern Utah’s agricultural history. According to a post by Coral Hills, LDS settlers pledged allegiance to the Union although they did not actively participate in the Civil War. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints named Utah’s Dixie for the warm climate and the Cotton Mission. Andrew Larson wrote in his text on the history of the name, “The fact that cotton would grow there, as well as tobacco and other semi-tropical plants such as the South produced made it easy for the name Dixie to stick.”

   On the other hand, Utah historian Will Bagley argues, “The name Dixie reflects the sympathy that the southern Utah and the Mormon people felt for the Confederacy.”

   Although there is no clear-cut explanation for the region’s nickname, it is an undeniable fact that DSU has been tied to the Confederacy in the past. Rather than trying to hide it, we should be open to discussion. The larger problem stems from not the institution’s name, but its controversial history.

   Whenever I walk by the Snow Math & Science Center, I always notice “Rebels Forever” literally carved in stone on the benches. A lot of students just associate it with DSU’s former mascot. DSU’s new athletic identity, the Trailblazers, is a much better representation of DSU and its values.

   Yet today, many people still hang the Confederate flag in their windows, or display it on their cars without understanding the slavery and oppression it stands for. In an interview with the Washington Post, Matthew Guterl, a professor of Africana and American studies at Brown University, explains why the flag is more than just a symbol of Southern pride and history.

   According to the Washington Post, Guterl said, “Wearing the flag or celebrating it, putting it on your car window or coffee table in your house, it’s a reminder to everyone, to every guest, to every person who sees it, black or white, that you are a stakeholder in the Confederate history of the South, and therefore the defense of slavery and racial prejudice. No one is immune to this.”

   So when the alumni who came through Dixie College before us waved the Confederate flag high and draped it around their shoulders like kings, they were celebrating not only history, but also decades of hate and discrimination. It is important for us to realize their mistakes so we do not repeat them, and so we can be educated about the symbols of our nation. Because isn’t that what we all came to college for, to become educated?

DSU announces general education requirement adaptations

Dixie State University is making three structural changes to the general education program starting fall 2018. 

Nancy Ross, interim director of general education, announced via email on Nov. 20 general education requirement changes will affect the information literacy, computer literacy, and global and cultural perspective courses.

The information literacy course, LIB 1010, will no longer be a requirement for GE. LIB 1010 is a course designed to help students learn the basics of university-level research by giving students the skills necessary to successfully research and write in the most effective way possible. Instead of taking LIB 1010 for credit, students will learn the library skills in their Life Science and English 1010-2010 GE classes. 

Brooke Wayman, a freshman physical science major from St. George, said she is glad LIB and CIS are no longer going to be required because they are a waste of time.

“I think they are pointless,” Wayman said. “We know how to use Word and Excel and all that, and LIB is just a burden.”

Computer literacy, or CIS 1200, will also no longer be an institutional requirement. CIS 1200 is a course designated to teach students how to use particular computer programs, such as e-mail, word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software. As an alternative to this class being required for GE classes, there will be a computer literacy assessment given to students during First Year Experience courses. If students do not meet the benchmark requirements in the assessment, it will then be suggested they take CIS 1200 to help develop those skills.

The global and cultural perspective classes are also changing. The GLOCUP category will cease to exist, and instead students will achieve the six credits needed for GLOCUP through Social and Behavioral Science and Literature/Humanities courses offered for GE credits. Erin Ortiz, chair of the general education committee, said by combining these courses students will have a simpler route to their degrees.

Ortiz said, “This kind of streamlines those choices to help students have a more clear path through the curriculum.”

Ross said all students who have been declared will not be affected. Once students are declared, their catalog year is established, meaning they have to meet the requirements based on what the catalog stated at the time of the student’s declaration.

“If you are not on the fall 2018 catalog, then you need to take those things,” Ross said. “So things don’t change for you; your requirements don’t change because of your catalog year.”

All of the changes to be made to GE have been approved by the academic council and the university will be put into affect next fall. If students have further questions, they can visit Ross in her office located in the North Plaza Building in room 125D.

Athletes focus on health, supporting other teams during off season

As fall sports forgo their seasons and head into the off season, many athletes and coaches are focusing on staying in shape for the spring.

Fall sports, such as cross country, continue to find the time to go running and improve times despite their season is over.

The cross country team has certain goals set that help them overcome adversity and improve their training.

“We have team and individual meetings to set up our training plan and team and individual goals,” said Justin Decker, head coach of women’s cross country.

Although teams are taking a break for a few weeks, athletes still have the drive to train and focus on school.

Teams like cross country don’t necessarily have official practice again until the start of the spring semester, but runners still engage in running activities on their own in the meantime.

Coach Decker said they are going to have a good chance at placing high enough in the region to have a shot at qualifying for nationals.

Teammates Hunter Chamberlain, a junior business administration major from St. George, and Tyler Fessler, a freshman statistics major from West Point, have been lifting weights so their legs can fully recover from this past season.

Chamberlain also plans to help coach Dixie High School track team this coming spring.

Both athletes are looking forward to the coming basketball season.

“Ever since Dixie State has had a Men’s basketball team, I have enjoyed going to the games with my dad,” Chamberlain said. “I plan on going to at least a few this year as well.”

All athletes also have set workouts they take part in that help them compete at the collegiate level.  

“I’m not doing any big workouts during the off season, but I’m still getting in some good mileage,” said Laynee Wells, a freshman nursing major from St.George. “I love the off season because I get to go on long trail runs.”

Teams like cross country don’t miss a second of training to prepare for the next season. Training helps the mind and body stay in shape and helps the mind stay focused on the task at hand. 

Evolution of DSU benefits community

Dixie State University has gone from a high school and college hybrid institution to a four-year university in the midst of creating graduate programs.

In light of recent developments, students and alumni are reflecting on DSU’s history and origins. 

“Despite how many times [DSU] has rebranded itself, I think [it] has finally come time where the changes are more of a benefit and less for show,” said Tara Dooley, a junior psychology major from West Jordan.

Dooley said in the beginning of DSU’s history, a lot of the changes were meant as a means to help the institution find itself and its purpose. Now, DSU is a four-year university with a goal to create functioning graduate programs.

At the beginning of DSU’s establishment, the now university was an academy for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The organization was named St. George Stake Academy, Dixie Academy, Dixie Normal College and Dixie Junior College before it was almost closed.

The church closed Dixie Junior College’s doors in 1933 because the church was closing private academies, and after two years of negotiations, the state of Utah opened the institution once again as a public college. The community paid for the college throughout the debate through donations and work.

Despite the 200 college students taking residence at Dixie Junior College, the institution was at risk of being shut down for almost 30 years after becoming a state college. It wasn’t until 1963 that four buildings and a gymnasium were erected for the college students on the land the university currently sits on, moving the college students away from the downtown campus.

Dixie Junior College underwent another name change seven years later, becoming Dixie College in 1972. Dixie College remained a two-year lyceum until 2000 when the Utah State Legislature signed off for the college to become a four-year institution. With the new development came another name change, making the switch to Dixie State College.

DSU Alumna Savannah Crampton said watching the university grow over time has been interesting.

“I remember my mom graduating from [DSU] with only an associate because that was all you could earn,” Crampton said. “Then I attended [DSU] and I could earn a bachelor’s, and it was new and exciting.”

Crampton enrolled at the university when there were rumors about it becoming a four-year university and was on campus during the transition, she said. Crampton said she is thankful for the continuous improvements and developments because she gets to follow in her family’s footsteps without having to make a few extra steps of her own. 

“I wanted to go to [DSU]; I knew that, but I wasn’t too keen on having to move to a different university for each degree,” Crampton said.

Dixie State College would undergo one more name change to Dixie State College of Utah, before becoming an official four-year university in 2013 and changing its name once more to Dixie State University despite debate against keeping the name “Dixie.” Students and faculty questioned the morality of having a name attached to slavery and historic racism.

“There are so many people, students and faculty, who are troubled by the continuation of the ‘Dixie’ name sake,” Dooley said. “I don’t think [DSU] did many favors by becoming the Trailblazers either.”

Dooley wants to use her expertise in psychology to study the effects of labels on efficiency. She said she knows of a lot of students against the mascot change and university name, but doesn’t think it affects the education process as much as a lot of people let on.

“At the end of the day, it’s just a name,” Dooley said. “You don’t have to go to a university and be all gung ho about the legacy, you don’t even have to buy the merchandise, [yet] students are here to get an education.”

Kyla Borg, a sophomore art major from Salt Lake City, helped DSU Student Association with the transition from the Red Storm to the Trailblazers in 2016.

“The most challenging part [of the transition] was how much the atmosphere changed and how quickly it changed,” Borg said. “With how many things that were still in transition when that year’s freshmen came onto campus, it was kind of hectic.”

Although the transition was confusing to some, Borg said the overall effect of the transition was positive.

“The tone on campus was more ‘welcome to DSU; we want you to succeed as a Trailblazer,’” Borg said.

Student retention rates fall short of national average, increase over university’s lifespan

Dixie State University’s retention rate for first-time freshmen has been improving slowly but surely due to the university’s combined efforts across campus. 

According to higheredinfo.org, the national average for retention rates in the U.S. is 79.8 percent. DSU falls well beneath this average at 51.3 percent. DSU has made improvements since its first years as a university when only 48.9 of first-time freshmen returned on average.

Andrea Brown, director of institutional research, said there are three major reasons students said they leave DSU: financial, family and job reasons. However, Brown said students typically avoid saying what may be the real reason they don’t return.

“When our department digs deeper into why students withdraw, we often find that academic performance is a [major] issue with these particular students,” Brown said. “There’s been a huge concerted effort across campus to help improve our retention rate.”

According to DSU’s website, FYE courses are designed to provide freshmen with knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in college. These classes provide expertise on where to find different campus resources, how to properly manage time, and many other skills needed to balance school and life. The Student Success Center also offers a course similar to FYE, which helps students gain life skills. 

“Because DSU is open enrollment, anyone can get in, and this means we get a lot of students who come to college with academic issues,” said Jeffery Hoyt, assistant vice president for student success and co-curricular assessment. “We have to change how we teach developmental courses or our retention rate won’t change.”

Hoyt said students who are at a high risk of failing academically often keep “bad high school habits.”

Darlene Dilley, assistant vice president for enrollment management, said DSU President Biff Williams has called together a retention task force, which is designed to help students succeed during their first year and continue their schooling. This task force was brought together at the end of September.

“One of the task force’s initiatives is looking at classes students don’t do well in,” Dilley said. “It was a short-term task force that met through early November, and once we identified the challenges and roadblocks, we [started] working in smaller teams to create plans of action.”

Dilley said DSU is also starting to reach out to students before they’re in school to build a connection between them and DSU. 

“DSU, for the last two years running, has had the biggest freshman class and the greatest enrollment increase,” Dilley said. “DSU is continuing to expand its offerings and students like to see value, affordability and strong academic programs in these offerings.”

DSU’s retention’s link to academic performance can be improved by monitoring the way classes are taught and getting students the help they need, Hoyt said.

“We just can’t have as high of failure rates DSU currently has in certain classes, like math 1000,” Hoyt said. “[DSU] is in the process of revamping classes…and the task force is helping with student success.”