#SDSUPresidentSearch: James Rankin

Katherine Clayton Managing Editor

James Rankin wants to listen and is willing to ask questions. During the presidential-student forum, he wanted to answer the questions students had for him, but he also wanted to learn more about the campus and students.

Rankin grew up and went to college in South Dakota, but left the state following college graduation.

Rankin has a Ph.D. and master’s degree in electrical engineering degree from Iowa State University. Additionally, he has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

“I was completely surprised by all the advances you have on campus,” Rankin said during his opening statements at the students forums on April 21. He was impressed at the “reach of SDSU as a land-grant university.”

He is currently serving as the Vice Provost for Research and Economic development at the University of Arkansas. In his position, he plays the role of a mentor to the students he serves.

The forum allowed students to ask the candidate questions related to tuition structure, retention, student engagement and the role of athletics and humanities in higher education.

“I need to hear what you believe are the issues going on,” Rankin said. “I need to know about that as well.”

One of the first steps he would take if he became resident would be to have a listening session for staff, faculty and students.

“I’d have to come in and have these listening sessions and students would be involved,” Rankin said.

An area that Rankin was concerned about at SDSU was the graduation rate. He said when students are in college for more than four years they are increasing their student debt.

“Raising tuition is not the way to do [retain students] as well. We have to figure out where we go get funding so we can keep tuition down,” Rankin said.

He said students fees “are almost like a hidden tuition. We don’t need to be adding more fees.”

When asked what made SDSU unique from other universities he has visited, he said the people.

“As we talk to people they are so proud to be a part of this university. That is what really makes it different,” Rankin said

He closed his interview asking the opinions of students and any other questions they have.

“This [experience] has been very positive,” Rankin said. “It’s a bright future and Wendy and I would like to be part of it.”