ST. GEORGE – Dixie State President Richard B. Williams gave a report for members of the public addressing the school’s progress in the way of academic programs, construction and renovation of facilities, and the newly adopted athletic identity and mascot.
“It was a state of the university address – where we’re at, what we’ve been doing and where we’re going,” Williams said following the report given for attendees of the President’s Colleagues of Dixie State at the Russell C. Taylor Health Science Center.
Dixie State achieved university status under former President Stephen Nadauld, Williams said, noting he and others now have the task of building upon that status and making Dixie State a premiere institution of higher learning.
That is just one purpose of the university’s strategic plan that was rolled out last fall.
Enrollment and affordability
Enrollment to Dixie State was at its highest in 2011 with 8,840 students enrolled, Williams said. However, those numbers dipped some when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lowered its age of eligibility for missionary service the following year. Enrollment for 2015 is currently around 8,460.
Dixie State officials anticipate enrollment hitting 10,000 for the fall 2016 semester. The number of applications is at 14,755, with 7,832 students already enrolled and admitted.
“What’s great about Dixie State is that we’re one of the most affordable four-year institutions in the state,” Williams said, adding it may be one of the least expensive schools in the western United States.
It takes, on average, about $22,000 in tuition and student fees for Utah residents to attend Dixie State for four years, Williams said.
“Right now it’s so expensive to get a higher education, that we are trying to keep it affordable,” he said. “So everything that we do has a strategy to it so that we can remain the most affordable in the state for a high-quality education.”
New student housing and other projects
With potentially 10,000 students going to Dixie State in the fall there are projects in the works to help accommodate the influx, particularly in the area of housing.
“The lack of housing has been an issue at Dixie State for years,” Williams said.
Helping to accommodate incoming students will be a new on-campus 350-bed housing facility, the Campus View Suites, being built along 100 South. All of those beds have already been reserved by incoming students, Williams said.
The Campus View Suites are scheduled to be completed by August.
Two other projects with private developers would add a 200-bed housing unit, along with a 400-600 bed facility on-campus as well. University officials ultimately want to provide 1,600 beds on campus.
Dining services are another matter with a future renovation of the Gardner Center needed, Williams said, which would include expanded dining services. Costs for that project could run $5 million to $7 million.
Two big construction projects Dixie State has in its future are renovations.
Last Friday, Legend Solar donated $10 million – the largest monetary donation in the school’s history – toward renovations of Hansen Stadium, which will be renamed Legend Solar Stadium. The donation will allow Dixie State to begin construction on a grandstand structure on the eastern side of the stadium that will offer up to 5,000 seats, as well as locker rooms, restrooms, concessions and ticketing.
The whole project, which sees a major facelift and upgrade to the front of the stadium facility, is anticipated to run $34 million.
The proposed Human Performance Center will be a place for students to recreate, as well as house some of the school’s health science classes. The 100,000-square-foot building will be built where the tennis courts currently stand along 700 East. New tennis courts would be constructed on property the university purchased from the Washington County School District, the site of the old East Elementary School.
The proposed Human Performance Center was the subject of an anonymous $1.5 million donation Dixie State received last month, putting available funds at over $21 million for the facility. The building would run around $49 million overall, which means Dixie State still needs to secure more funding from the state in order to proceed.
New identity and mascot
“I was avoiding this like the plague,” Williams said in relation to Dixie State’s identity when he first became Dixie State’s new president. That opinion changed with time, however, as it became apparent that the “Red Storm” was an identity that wasn’t going to work for the school long-term.
“(The students and community) now have an identity they can rally around,” Williams said of the new Trailblazers name and its affiliated mascot, Brooks the Bison.
“Before, they couldn’t say ‘I’m a Red Storm,’” Williams said. “Now they can say ‘I’m a Trailblazer.’”
Though he acknowledged not everyone would be happy with the change, the student body and community at large have rallied around the new identity.
“The Trailblazer identity tells the story of what students can accomplish at Dixie State University,” Williams said.
Douglas D. Alder, president of Dixie College from 1986-93, said he was pleased with the new identity.
“I am so glad they chose the Trailblazers,” Alder said. “I have been anxious they retain the name Dixie, but not the Rebels.”
In 2006, Dixie State had four baccalaureate programs. It currently has near 30, Williams said. In 2017 the school hopes to add two graduate programs, and bring its baccalaureate programs up to over 40 in 2018.
What is really exciting, Williams said, is Dixie State’s partnership with the University of Utah, the state’s “flagship university,” to offer a physician assistant program through Dixie State. Staff from the University of Utah will oversee the program for three years and then turn it over to Dixie State.
Williams said Dixie State will also be looking at bringing engineering to the school once it has broadened its base of mathematics, chemistry and related-courses.
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