Dakota Wesleyan University President Amy Novak & Mark La Branche, president at MMC, lead the effort to bring rural colleges together.
September 27, 2018
Shared courtesy of The Daily Republic
DWU Hosting Inaugural Rural Higher Ed Event
University of the Ozarks President Richard Dunsworth (upper-center), of Clarksville, Arkansas, speaks during a roundtable discussion at the Rural Higher Education Institute event Tuesday at the Sherman Center on the Dakota Wesleyan University campus. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)
A first-of-its-kind event is taking place in Mitchell this week, with representatives of nearly 20 small colleges gathering to discuss how they can better serve the rural areas which they serve.
The Rural Higher Education Institute event started Tuesday evening and continues through Thursday at the Sherman Center on Dakota Wesleyan University's campus. Almost all of the schools—generally under 2,000 students and in communities of 25,000 people or less—are seeking to improve the reputations and perceptions of small, rural colleges.
The event was formed out of a January meeting among many of the same institutions. Dakota Wesleyan University President Amy Novak and Mark La Branche, the president at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tennessee, were the two leaders of the effort to bring the rural colleges together.
In introductory remarks Tuesday, Novak said that small colleges by nature bring different perspectives to higher education, and those institutions can be better by making a concerted effort to show off their importance.
"Fundamentally, we have to stop apologizing for being small and for being rural," said Novak, speaking about a desire for a rural renaissance.
Almost all of the schools in attendance brought their institution's president and another administrator to the event. The schools hailed from the states of Arkansas, California, Georgia, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. In addition to DWU, Mount Marty College in Yankton and Presentation College in Aberdeen were also South Dakota institutions that were represented.
La Branche said the vision for rural success can come from within the colleges themselves but institutions have to be willing to accept who they are.