State of the University addresses new strategic plan, name change rumors

President Richard “Biff” Williams addresses the media after the State of the University Address Sept. 23 in the M. Anthony Burns Arena. Williams introduced the new strategic plan and its goals. Photo by Autumn Nuzman.

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President Richard “Biff” Williams introduced Dixie State University’s next proposed strategic plan during the 2020 State of the University Address.

The plan, also known as Trailblazer Distinction 2020-2025, features five goals:

  • Academic distinction, which DSU hopes to accomplish by establishing an open and inclusive environment with a polytechnic blend of curricular and co-curricular experiences, as well as high-impact learning experiences and increased academic programs.
  • Strategic enrollment and growth, which will involve increasing overall enrollment to 16,000 students, increasing education center enrollment by 100%, and increasing graduation and retention rates through affordability.
  • Institutional capacity and performance, which will be done through a deployment of analytics, establishing enhanced business intelligence to increase enrollment, creating a formal plan to regularly assess and maintain the campus’ physical infrastructure, purchasing Desert Color property to integrate it into the campus master plan, using a sustainable refresh and replacement cycle for equipment, and upgrading fundraising capabilities.
  • Community as university, which involves collaborating more with DSU’s surrounding counties and community while increasing partnerships, incubating 10 new companies through Atwood Innovation Plaza, and promoting more global and civic engagement efforts.
  • Faculty and staff life, which will involve increasing diversity, providing more resources, making policies more effective, and creating more cohesion through collaboration in regard to faculty and staff.

Trailblazer Distinction is also meant to make DSU more open, inclusive and polytechnic, with an emphasis on filling the regional hole in polytechnic universities, Williams said.

Williams also gave Dixie 2020: Status to Stature medallions to goal and strategy leaders from each of the six goals in DSU’s Status to Stature plan, and he presented special recognition awards to several people involved in the plan. Most were bison trophies, but the one given to Christina Durham, former chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, was a 50-pound placard for coining Status to Stature and the one given to Michael Lacourse, provost and vice president of academics, was a charging bison because he “hit the ground running” when he got here five years ago.


David Clark, chairman of the Board of Trustees, addressed rumors surrounding a potential university name change in an impromptu speech during his opening remarks.

“People … have been sharing things that are not truthful and not honest,” Clark said. “I want to set the record straight. There is no secret plan on behalf of the trustees on how to change the name of Dixie State University.”

Clark said legislators are the only ones who have the power to change the university’s name and he feels it’s disingenuous to spread the perception study DSU is doing as if that were proof there’s a secret plan backed by the trustees and university president. He said the perception study is only a survey intended to see how DSU is perceived.

“I want to set the record straight. There is no secret plan on behalf of the trustees on how to change the name of Dixie State University.”

David Clark, chairman of the Board of Trustees

“I think we all know what [Dixie] means locally: our love and affection for our heritage and what’s taking place,” Clark said. “But regionally and nationally, we need some help.”

Clark also acknowledged that the administration was unaware he planned to address the situation in his remarks until he did it.

“The university didn’t know; as he said at the beginning of those, we were not aware,” Williams said. “To be honest, I was in the back and I couldn’t really hear, and so I don’t know what those comments were.”

Lacourse and Jordon Sharp, vice president of marketing and communication, also announced a special recognition for Williams, which was a presidential portrait commissioned by the president’s cabinet from art professor Del Parson.

“Any team needs a good, strong leader,” Sharp said. “[Williams] never stops thinking, he never stops planning, he never stops dreaming, he never stops worrying, he never stops working.”