President Barry Dunn: Things are going to change


Three months have passed since Barry Dunn became South Dakota State University’s 20th president, and he has a positive outlook about his future in the position.

“I feel very confident, very strong and I feel that’s a good way to start the year,” Dunn said. “I’m really glad I had the summer during this transition.”

Dunn is the former dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological studies. He attained his Ph.D., master’s degree and bachelor’s degree from SDSU.

One of Dunn’s former colleagues shares his confidence. Rebecca Bott, interim dean of the Van D. and Barbara B. Fishback Honors College, worked with President Dunn when he was dean of the College of Agricultural and Biological Science.

Her experience working with Dunn for six years showed her he’ll make a strong president.

“This is a very exciting time for SDSU. President Dunn brings so many positive qualities into the presidency,” Bott said. “He is familiar with SDSU and has a proven history championing the land grant mission at this institution.”

Bott has heard Dunn referred to as the “people’s president,” and she agrees with this nickname.

“I believe that he will continue to make positive and meaningful contributions to the SDSU community and beyond,” Bott said.

As Dunn continues in the presidency, he wants the university community to participate in shaping the future of SDSU.

“This a place of 12,500 students and thousands of faculty and thousands of staff and it’s my job to lead that collectively to the future,” Dunn said. “Things will change, so we need to be nimble and staying true to access.”

Institutional changes

Dunn transitioned from dean to president by traveling across the state meeting businesses, South Dakota communities and alumni. Dunn also attended a week-long school in San Diego to learn about being the president of a university.

The summer months gave Dunn time to make organizational changes to increase institutional effectiveness.

Dunn is doing this by providing more resources to deans, department heads, faculty and staff.

“How can we provide for them the very best information for them to make decisions on?” Dunn said. “We’re going to create a set of management dashboards. So that we get them the right information at the right time so we don’t overload them with information, but we get them so they can make a really good decision.”

Dunn notes that the management dashboards may not cause visible changes across campus, but it will be effective for involved parties.

Preparing for the future

Dunn is looking into what the future student body will look like and how the university will react to the changing demographics.

“Our land grant mission says that we are the place of access for the common person, the yoman worker,” Dunn said.

He emphasized that SDSU welcomes the change and minority populations of students.

“We want them here. It’s our job to include, to open the doors for these emerging populations,” he said.

The change will not occur overnight, Dunn said. Instead, it will be gradual. He wants the campus to embrace the land grant mission of access and the new populations of students attending the university. In order to prepare, there will be an emphasis on diversity and inclusion.

Bott recognized his interest in the student populations while he was working in his former position.

“President Dunn is dedicated to building relationships and to the development of people. This is evident watching him interact with staff, faculty, students and stakeholders,” she said. “He knows students as individuals and what they are interested in.”

Sustainable campus

Other areas Dunn wants to enhance at SDSU are sustainability and the stu-dent experience.

As a self-proclaimed environmentalist, Dunn wants to address the issue of lit-ter.

“My goal is to have a campus that is so beautiful and so well cared for that we don’t need a clean up day,” he said. “Every day is a clean up day.”

Overall, Dunn feels it is his responsibility as SDSU’s president to make sure students are successful.

“It’s my ultimate responsibility to create a very strong and healthy universi-ty,” Dunn said. “My job is student success whether it’s participating in intramurals or having good janitorial services to having the housing office run in a very student-focused, customer-service focused (way). That’s a strong, healthy organization.”