Centers give non-traditional students more options for school

Jordan Smith

University Centers offer the same courses as university main campuses.


The South Dakota University Centers provide non-traditional students a smooth transition into college career.

University Centers allow non-traditional students to get an education in a setting less like a college campus, but still allow students to mingle with other students working to obtain a degree.

In South Dakota, such centers are located in Rapid City and Sioux Falls.

“The University Centers are made up of all the state colleges in one location, with the exception of South Dakota School of Mines and Technology,” said Jennie Doyen, the marketing director of the Sioux Falls University Center.

All classes offered at South Dakota universities are offered at both centers, but only 60 majors can be obtained taking classes solely at a UC.

Many people go to the UC for general requirements and then commute to a campus to finish out their degree. Of these students attending classes at either UC, most are non-traditional students and hold a full-time job.

On average, there are about 3,400 students a year attending classes at the University Center in Sioux Falls. That number is on track to be surpassed this year with 2,100 students enrolled in the Fall Semester alone.

“There is no quality or expectation differences, it is just the location of the classes that are different,” said Doyen. “Many of the faculty employed here commute from an actual university campus to teach here.”

Andrew Ellis, an SDSU instructor, is an example of one of these commuting professors. He drives to Sioux Falls twice a week to teach physiology and the corresponding lab.  He teaches two three-hour labs and one three-hour lecture.  These classes encompass a weeks worth of material covered in one day.

“It is not a completely designed course, I have to mirror it to SDSU’s course to the best of my abilities to give students a course as close as possible to one offered at SDSU,” said Ellis. “Many of the students I am teaching are getting ready to or waiting to get in to the nursing program at SDSU.”

Teachers at the UC are all commuter teachers and must use the materials they bring with them.

“Each time I have to set up the lab from scratch in an empty lab. I am both the lab instructor and the lab tech, so I have to do it all. I have no assistant with me,” said Ellis. “There is a great support network at the UC, but I have to implement, to get all of the help I need.”

“I really enjoy teaching at the University Center, I am so used to teaching younger students and these are a completely different genre of students.  The students attending the University Center may or may not know how to be a successful student and it is fun to get them to understand how,” said Ellis.