Dunn will use past experiences, connections as new president

Diversity and expansion are key

To an overflowing room of faculty, staff, students and community members, the South Dakota Board of Regents appointed Barry Dunn as the 20th president of South Dakota State University on Monday, April 25. 

Regent Kathryn Johnson barely finished announcing Dunn’s name before the crowded room exploded into applause. Johnson led the presidential search committee.

“We know that a high performing president needs a network that extends all the way from the Campanile to across the state and across the country,” Johnson said during the announcement. “And as demonstrated by the incredible outpouring of support for Dr. Dunn’s candidacy, we know that he’s already got in place, starting today, that strong team committed to a common purpose of forwarding SDSU.”

Dunn is the current dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences at SDSU. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree and doctorate in animal science, all from SDSU.

He was one of four finalists for the presidency at SDSU who interviewed on campus last week with different campus entities, including a student forum. 

Dunn was the only candidate with ties to SDSU. This was demonstrated with his continuous praises and compliments for his alma mater during the announcement. 

“In this, I’m not an outsider looking in, but an insider looking out,” Dunn said. “I’m looking out at my alma mater that I love.”

Dunn’s first day will be May 23. He succeeds David Chicoine, who has served as SDSU’s president since 2007. 

“Like them and all of you, I care deeply about this place,” Dunn said to the crowd filled with SDSU staff, faculty and students. “I’ve personally witnessed and benefitted from its multifaceted, enriching work. I’ve also come to observe and understand its challenges and areas of opportunity.” 

One of the challenges, according to Dunn, is enrollment management. He said that enrollment in higher education is flat, especially in this region. 

“The demographics of our region are not positive for growth, but we need to grow,” Dunn said. “We need to be strong financially and serve as many people as we possibly can.”

Dunn said he and other SDSU leaders will address critical issues facing campus including sustainable economics, growth and prosperity, agricultural productivity and food production, population health, stewardship of our natural resources and our healthy communities. 

He also included the importance of arts and humanities, which hold “critical roles in shaping all of our lives.” 

“I’m committed to taking decisive action and driving for powerful results,” Dunn said. “Being president of South Dakota State, it is indeed a once in a lifetime and very singular opportunity that I absolutely appreciate and understand. For me, it is also deeply personal.”

Many students were present at the announcement, including Students’ Association President Ally Helms and Vice President Lane Speirs. Both are ready and excited for Dunn’s appointment.

“He’s made a lot of great connections with students so far and he’s truly proven how well he works with students on our campus,” Helms said. “I know that he will be able to do a great job working with us in the future and I’m excited to see what he can do for us.” 

Speirs has known Dunn from previous experiences in the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences. Speirs said he has personally seen his commitment to making a “better SDSU.”

“I think he truly is the candidate that cares about this campus deeply and I think that’ll show all throughout his term,” Speirs said. 

Dunn would like students to know how much he cares about their time at SDSU. He reflected on his own experiences on campus. 

“I will probably be a grandfatherly figure to [students] and I want the very best for them, so sincerely,” Dunn said. “This place has changed my life and it was the greatest decision I ever made and it is for them too. We need to build their success. We need to do the very best job in the classroom and student life and all campus life for them to succeed.”