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June 25, 2015

BHSU pitches 5 major initiatives

Black Hills State University has proposed a broad-based package of initiatives to create or improve university programs to increase educational opportunities, stimulate economic activity and meet statewide teacher preparation challenges.

BHSU President Tom Jackson, Jr. said that the requests draw on BHSU’s strengths, are closely tied to the state Board of Regents' strategic priorities and meet some of the most challenging needs of the state. The five proposed initiatives are:

  • BHSU Underground Campus Infrastructure.
  • Center for American Indian Studies.
  • Center for Civic Engagement & Economic Innovation.
  • Institute for Teacher Preparation & Retention.
  • Weekend and Senior Citizen College.

The BHSU Underground Campus Infrastructure request, advancing BHSU’s partnership with Sanford Lab in nearby Lead, will significantly increase undergraduate student research opportunities and fund an initial contingent of undergraduate and graduate student researchers.

The BHSU Underground Campus, at the 4,800-level of Sanford Lab, is nearly complete and will be ready for use this fall. BHSU requested $1 million to transition the Underground Campus into full-scale operation and to position the campus as self-sustaining within two years.

The proposed funding will provide for the purchase of specialized science equipment and fund safety enhancements that will support doubling the maximum allowed underground personnel headcount. This would allow for increased collaboration and learning amongst students and faculty.

“This investment will pay long-term dividends through the enhancement of South Dakota's STEM workforce, increased commercialization of intellectual property, and a boost in South Dakota’s national standing within STEM research and STEM education,” Jackson noted.

The BHSU Underground Campus is an integral component of the larger Sanford Science Education Center, which includes Education and Outreach activities at the lab and at Jonas Hall which are designed to extend and engage K-12 students and the general population with the cutting-edge underground research.

The Center for American Indian Studies initiative includes: a Jump Start Program; American Indian Studies Forgivable Semester Program; graduate degrees in American Indian Studies (MA, Doctoral); and an American Indian Learning Resource and Cultural Center that would be located on the BHSU campus.

BHSU has a strong legacy of providing educational opportunities for American Indians. Today, BHSU boasts the largest percentage (5 percent) of American Indian students in the Regental system. Over 40 years ago, BHSU was one of the first higher education institutions in the United States to recognize American Indian Studies as a unique discipline. BHSU currently offers a major and a minor in American Indian Studies and proposes to add master’s and a joint doctoral degree in American Indian Studies.

The university also currently houses a legislatively-approved Center for American Indian Studies which provides a strong foundation for American Indian students including the recently-funded Jump Start Program, Bridge Program, academic advisement and student tutoring. BHSU leaders have visions of an American Indian Learning Resource and Cultural Center on the BHSU campus that would stand as a global resource for education and research.

As a part of this initiative, BHSU is also proposing a forgivable semester program, which would allow selected students from the Crazy Horse/USD Summer Bridge Program to receive tuition, fees, room and board and an academic waiver to attend BHSU. BHSU is also developing a collaborative agreement with Crazy Horse that would create a number of degree and non-degree educational options in the Southern Black Hills.

The Center for Civic Engagement & Economic Innovation would provide exceptional experiential learning for students while creating research and economic development (start-up support for emerging companies). This request includes the following components:

  • Civics, Citizenship, & Citizen Retention (Legislative History)
  • Small Business Incubation & Entrepreneurship (Economic Innovation)
  • Tourism & Sustainability (Economic Innovation)
  • South Dakota Center for Enterprise Opportunity (SD CEO)

With this initiative, BHSU seeks to assist the state of South Dakota to become the most recognized state for civic engagement and economic innovation in the United States. The proposed outreach center, located on the campus of BHSU, would serve as a repository for legislative history and best practices to inspire students into civic engagement – creating dedicated citizens that want to stay and work in South Dakota.

The Center will support volunteerism and integration of civics and citizenship into the statewide higher learning culture and curriculum. BHSU will partner with at least one high school in every county to promote civics engagement, collect legislative history, and develop economic innovations that spearhead new businesses or revenues.

The recent accreditation of the BHSU School of Business by AACSB (an accreditation granted to only 5 percent of business schools) and the BHSU faculty expertise in business, western history, political science, travel and tourism, and civic engagement creates a synergy on campus that will have positive impact throughout the state.

“The time is rich with opportunity to build on existing partnerships, programs, and programmatic strengths to enhance the economic and civic vitality across the State of South Dakota,” Jackson said.

The Institute for Teacher Preparation & Retention request includes five components:

  • South Dakota Forgivable Loan & Retention Initiative
  • Teacher Scholarship
  • Teach for South Dakota Program
  • Master’s Degree Incentive Program
  • Dual Credit faculty/teachers (adjuncts)

BHSU, which graduates more teachers than any other South Dakota university, has a long and proud record of achievement and is uniquely positioned for an Institute for Teacher Preparation and Retention. The proposed Institute will be built on the foundation of several high quality programs that are currently being delivered at BHSU including on-campus and online offerings and the work of the Center for the Advancement of Mathematics and Science Education (CAMSE), which serves an important statewide teacher professional development and outreach role.

The Forgivable Loan and Retention Initiative/Teacher Scholarship component is designed to prepare teachers in high-needs areas. Tuition loans (or scholarships) would be made available to students seeking certification to teach math, science, or special education. The funds would be tied to a commitment to teach in South Dakota for five years. The Institute would offer the courses at BHSU-RC in a weekend model so future teachers could complete one hybrid course per month by attending weekend classes two weekends a month with online follow-up.

The proposed Teach for South Dakota Program/Master’s Degree Incentive Program is designed to certify teachers at the post-baccalaureate level. This project, concentrated in the Rapid City area through partnerships with local school districts, has proved successful through the BHSU Project Select and Second programs. Jackson noted that these rigorous, accelerated programs are a viable alternative to the Teach for America model.

The proposed Regental Pathway to Certification for Paraprofessionals in Reservation Schools is designed to address the teacher shortage by creating a pathway to teacher certification for qualified paraprofessionals currently living and employed in schools on reservations. Dr. Rod Custer, provost and vice president for academic affairs at BHSU, noted that this “grow our own” program would provide a stable population of teachers, as well as role models for American Indian children and inspire them to see themselves as potential teachers in the future.

“It’s important for schools with high numbers of Native American students to also have a higher percentage of American Indian teachers. Currently a number of South Dakota school districts have a significantly higher percentage of American Indian students than teachers,” Custer said. For example 60 percent of the students enrolled in Bennett County Schools are American Indian, while only 2 percent of the teachers are American Indian; McLaughlin has 97 percent American Indian student population, 16 percent American Indian teachers; Smee has 97 percent American Indian student population, 24 percent American Indian teachers.

The fourth component will be to identify and provide support to high school teachers to deliver dual credit courses to high school students. This will provide an important link between BHSU’s teacher education programs, the local schools, and students who are exploring options for postsecondary education.

The BHSU request for Weekend and Senior Citizen College includes the following components:

  • Associate Degrees
  • Continuing Education
  • Dual Credit Initiative
  • Workforce Development (Career Development & Counseling)
  • Adult & Transfer Coordination

BHSU-RC, a new location for BHSU in Rapid City, has provided significant opportunities for programmatic innovation and growth. Weekend programming is also being developed with a focus on certification (e.g., special education for teachers), project management for area businesses, and learning or continuing education opportunities for the senior adult population. These credit and non-credit opportunities are targeted at adult learners who may only attend college on weekends and at senior citizens, the largest and fastest growing group of potential degree or certificate seekers.

A number of new certificates and associate degree programs are being developed, which will provide students the opportunity to successfully complete the first step in their higher educational career. For example, associate degrees in criminal justice, network computing, mass communications, business administration, tourism, elementary education and special needs could transfer into four-year programs and increase the number of bachelor degree graduates in the state to meet workforce demands.

For more information on these initiatives, contact Corinne Hansen, director of university and community relations, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 605-642-6215.

Our Partners

  • Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce




  • Lead Chamber of Commerce


  • Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce


  • West River Business Services Center


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