Endless opportunites at hand for those willing to stay in state

Denise Ross


If you are like me, you grew up in a small South Dakota town — or towns — and you find SDSU to be a hoot. (Or as the Replacements album of my day said, a Hootenanny.) But also, you long to get out there into that great big world and make your mark.

I used to look at a U.S. map that hung on a wall where I worked and feel trapped inside the imaginary borders of my home state. I wasn’t sure how I would do it, but I was sure I would land myself somewhere more spectacular, more fabulous.

I write this from Rapid City 20 years since my graduation, without a single regret about still being here in South Dakota. While there are certainly plenty of places an SDSU grad could go and succeed, we Jackrabbits should also realize that good ol’ South Dakota has a lot to offer.

Like its residents who have been documented to suffer from an inferiority complex (a Google search yields 9.8 million results), the Rushmore State is ever underestimated. Think about that for just a moment — the Rushmore State, for crying out loud. We are home to one of the world’s most recognizable icons and a monument to human imagination and ingenuity, not to mention the literal memorial to our nation’s democracy. But, oh, South Dakota is nothing special?

Now, some people are city people and would be happiest amidst the tall buildings, rumbling trucks and endless number of great restaurants. My roommate from SDSU dwells in San Francisco and despite growing up on a farm near Ipswich, she is through and through a city girl. (She confesses she used to watch longingly as the neon lights of Craven Corner flashed in the distance. On a clear night, she could see the glow of lights from Aberdeen and they drove her to distraction.)

But even my roommate values her formative years on a farm. And she will be the first to tell you that the interpersonal challenges of working with various personalities are universal. The bozo explosion, as Steve Jobs coined it, goes on nearly everywhere.

If you do leave for the bright lights of the big city, you will soon find that many will be fascinated by the different lifestyle we lead out here in flyover country. I once watched a man who grew up in Boston hang on every word of a South Dakota farm girl describing how the rendering truck came for a cow who had passed to the other side.

If you do go, know that the Dakota work ethic has achieved something close to mythic status among employers elsewhere.

Now, back to the virtues of South Dakota as a place to live post-college. If career satisfaction is high on your list, hard work and a little smarts are likely to get you far and probably faster here. Career options are rich here, too, from developing the next generation of ethanol on the prairie to conducting cutting-edge physics research underground in the Black Hills to the professional opportunities — from finance to healthcare — in Sioux Falls. Just for starters.

If quality of life for you and a young family are a priority, well, I doubt you can do much better than South Dakota’s communities, schools and outdoors — from public parks to hunting and fishing.

During a brief stint in Denver, I went on “hikes” up mountains in a single-file line that stretched as far as I could see in both directions. Here in the Black Hills, it feels crowded if more than a handful of other people are in the same place as you.

Once your children arrive on the scene, one cannot put a price on having grandparents nearby.

Even though our state is small, I could not describe the South Dakota lifestyle as slow or even quaint. I find endless entertainment options and activities, so many that I have a list of things I plan to do “some day” because I’m just too busy to get to everything that’s going on.

No matter where you go from SDSU, know that your home state has given you much to speed you down your road to success, from a solid work ethic to a whole lot of practical know-how about things such as rendering trucks.

Remember growing up in South Dakota fondly, even if you stay right here.