Evolution of DSU benefits community

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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.