Southwestern Schools Take Cooperation to a New Level

Published: May 21, 2007 | Read Time: 6 minutes

The presidents at Southern Utah University and Dixie State College have sent a letter to the Commissioner of Utah’s System of Higher Education outlining some of the new ways they are planning to cooperate in order to better serve their region of the state.

Presidents Michael T. Benson and Lee Caldwell, of SUU and DSC respectively, have worked together with many members of their staff to compose a joint letter that details how the two institutions of higher education will join forces to deliver more programs to the residents in southwestern Utah.

President Benson said, “Many people have worked long and hard to work through this process to bring resources to bear on serving the needs of southwestern Utah, as it relates to teacher education.”

President Caldwell stated that the sharing of education programs is especially significant for his local constituency. “The crisis we’re dealing with in Washington County is two-fold. The first is a critical teacher shortage, which is a problem statewide, but particularly key in Washington County because of our growth and retiring teachers. The second big issue is that this part of the state has one of the lowest educational attainment rates in the country, which is the percentage of our population with a Bachelor’s degree.

SUU’s Benson added, “I commend the faculty and staff at both institutions for their efforts in building a partnership on behalf of the people in our region. Commissioner Kendall and his staff have been very helpful in brokering a formal agreement. We hope to offer courses to this fall’s cohort.”

Caldwell added, “Making those opportunities available to a wider range of our citizens is absolutely critical and we really appreciate SUU’s willingness to come in and help us plug those gaps in offerings while we continue to evolve as an institution.”

A copy of the letter is shown below:

May 15, 2007

The intent of this letter is to outline details about possible alignments and areas of collaboration between Southern Utah University (SUU) and Dixie State College (DSC). The two institutions unite for a common goal: to provide a broad spectrum of high quality educational opportunities to residents in the extended service area of southern Utah. In addition, both institutions are committed to distinct, complementary missions, which are non-competitive.

On the academic side, SUU and DSC have a long history of collaboration in health care, education, and business education. Both institutions collaborate extensively in programs to reach under-served populations, in Campus Compact and in other community service and economic development activities. The past year, the Utah State Legislature granted substantial partnership funds to further encourage each campus to forge alliances to better serve citizens in this part of the State.

The differences between the two institutions are reflected in their histories, strategic plans, missions and communities. At present, Southern Utah University draws nearly 80 percent of its students from outside of Iron County. At the same time, about 67 percent of Dixie State College’s students are from Washington County. Therefore, this leaves significant room for mutual agreement and cooperation in developing future baccalaureate degrees or implementation of other degree programs between SUU and DSC.

The different roles of the two institutions are quite clear. As Utah’s only public university south of Orem, Southern Utah University plays a critical role as a comprehensive, regional university serving the dynamic needs of both southern and rural Utah. Dixie State College, as a community-oriented college, is developing to serve an increasingly urbanized area, and over the last five years has increased its focus on meeting the vital and rapidly growing needs of Washington County.

Our campuses have already engaged in productive partnerships as evidenced by the emerging criminal justice program that is, arguably, an example of what can and should happen between our two institutions. Support extended by Dixie State to SUU’s recently-approved Master’s of Public Administration degree underscores this spirit of collaboration and portends what can happen in the future.

Given its founding as the Branch Normal School in 1897, teacher education has been THE principal focus of what is now known as Southern Utah University. One hundred ten-plus years of history in preparing teachers for Utah and the region makes SUU uniquely qualified to assist Dixie State in its attempts to address, particularly, the needs of Washington County School District.

Southern Utah University endorses the proposal recently submitted to Commissioner Rich Kendell and the State Board of Regents that Dixie State prepare its students for secondary licensure. It is understood that SUU’s help would be enlisted to deliver academic programs to Dixie State in the following areas: Math, History, Art, Chemistry, Dance Education, Family and Consumer Science, German, Physical Education, Social Science Composite, and Spanish. SUU also recognizes that Dixie State has submitted a letter of intent to offer secondary licensure in the areas of Biology and English and the University is supportive of the College’s efforts in this regard. It is also anticipated that Dixie State will continue to focus on its strong programs such as health occupations, technology, education, business, and in meeting community needs for high-demand programs and degrees. We also envision DSC students, upon completion of their bachelor degrees, moving into SUU graduate programs thus providing even more highly-skilled individuals to better serve the needs of the region.

To avoid duplication and inefficient use of state resources, the following is proposed as complementary actions relative to the licensure program approvals as suggested by the Commissioner’s Office:

1. That SUU secure a facility within Washington County in order to deliver its programs to interested students with a view to increasing educational opportunities to the citizens of Washington County and beyond. The University will continue to strive to secure an appropriate venue for its operations.

2. That SUU identify and deliver programs of high demand by Washington County residents, both graduate and undergraduate, providing added opportunities and access to the residents of the area. As noted above, SUU is currently doing so and have had great success in delivering master’s of education classes and programs in St. George.

As noted above, SUU is ideally positioned to serve the educational needs of its service region. The University’s continued and recognized quality aspirations are evident by its state-leading enrollment growth, retention of students, specialized accreditations, and highly qualified full-time faculty.

Both Southern Utah University and Dixie State College are prepared to extend these opportunities to the region and do its part in preparing the future educated labor force of the State that promises to bring economic vitality and prosperity to this part Utah. This proposed partnership sends a very clear message that SUU and DSC are ready and willing to usher in an unprecedented era of cooperation between the two campuses.

Both institutions feel these efforts are needed to support the rapid pace of economic and community growth in Iron and Washington counties and the entire southern Utah region.


President Michael T. Benson and President Lee G. Caldwell

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