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University research, collaboration discussed at recent Rotary meeting

Evan Walton

Leaders from the state university network sat down in Sioux Falls to discuss advancing educational and cultural ties with the community.

Representatives from Dakota State, University of South Dakota, and South Dakota State Universities sat down for the community conversation hosted by the downtown Rotary Club Monday.

Ashley Podhrasky, VP for research and development at DSU, said to ensure good results, step one is collaboration.

“Who can do it best?" Podhrasky asked. "Who is best suited to offer this program, who is best suited to offer that program? As many students as we can educate, wherever they’re being educated, that’s what we want to do. So, in that sense, being able to partner and – a rising tide lifts all boats – is really important.”

The result of this collaboration is successful retention of students to the system. USD VP for external relations Alissa Matt said that retention has real world impacts.

We know that more education leads to things like lower incarceration rates, higher income, lower dependance on social services – all these good things that help a community stay healthy, to grow, and to continue to grow," Matt said. "I think that’s what every single one of us is focused on – serving the community.”

Research is a key draw to potential students in the STEM fields. Vernon Brown, VP of external affairs at SDSU, said South Dakota schools are competing with peers.

“The NASA competitions we’re in, we’re competing at the level of MIT, Purdue, and beating these schools in our engineering department with these NASA rovers that are going to the moon,' Brown said. "President Dunn talks about – there’s going to be a time in the very near future when we try to put humans on the moon to live. You’re going to see a rocket come down, the payload door is going to open, and that lunar vehicle is going to be engineered by SDSU students.”

Other key research projects in the state include the development quantum computing, food and agriculture research, and artificial intelligence.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture