Letter to the Editor: Dixie State provost on providing access, opportunity as an open, inclusive university

Dixie State University campus, St. George, Utah, Nov. 21, 2019 | File photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

LETTER TO THE EDITOR — Dixie State University intends to transform into a premier public university over the next 30 years. The aim is to become the baccalaureate university of first-choice for all Utahans as well as those living across the intermountain west.

To become first choice, DSU will remove barriers to access and opportunity by creating a sense of belonging for everyone who wishes to learn from faculty and staff who are deeply committed to student learning and success.

The Utah System of Higher Education designates DSU as one of three dual-mission public universities in the state. Simply stated, a dual-mission university serves both as a community college offering professional certificates and associate degrees and as a regional university offering baccalaureate and graduate degrees. DSU is also designated as an open-admissions university, meaning that all applicants who meet a minimum entry requirement are admitted without competition.

The university will continue to not only embrace both its dual-mission and open-admission requirements in the future, but also will extend and leverage these requirements for the greatest benefit to our students by creating a unique type of American university based on the core values of openness. These include collaboration, sharing, transparency, community and inclusion, all enabled through the power and impact of advanced digital technologies and services.

Through our new mission and vision, DSU will implement the formal principles of “Open Education” recently established by a consortium of European universities that incorporates and extends the characteristics of a dual-mission and open admissions university. Open education capitalizes on advanced digital technologies and services to increasingly expand individual access to learning, improve collaboration with local, national and global partners, and create a culture of idea and information sharing.

In an open education environment, each individual, at every stage in their lives and career development, can have appropriate and meaningful educational opportunities available to them. This will include virtual access to content, courses, learning support services, performance assessment and certification in ways that are flexible and accommodate the needs of our diverse southwest Utah population. Importantly, we will reduce or eliminate systemic barriers to learning, including admissions and cost.

Provost Michael Lacourse speaks at Dixie State University board of trustees meeting, St. George, Utah, Nov. 3, 2017. Lacourse is the author of a series of letters to the editor about the future of the university. | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

DSU will supply students with broad access to open educational resources and practices for their classes. This means the cost of textbooks and other instructional materials will be reduced significantly and when possible provided free of charge. Faculty will collaborate with community partners and with colleagues from across the globe to share ideas and create the most up-to-date courses, programs and classroom materials, ensuring that students learn the most current and applicable knowledge and skills and upon graduation are ready to work immediately. This collaboration will further strengthen ties with K-12, Dixie Tech and other organizations that supply professional development and other types of learning experiences.

Educational content is everywhere and both formal and non-formal learning are ubiquitous in today’s world. DSU is expanding policies and practices that recognize and promote all paths to learning while creating new and innovative ways to convert non-formal learning such as military experience and on-the-job training into academic credentials. This will also include improved access to learning through expanded online classes and programs and other technology-based learning opportunities.

Innovation and entrepreneurship will continue as the hallmark of DSU. We are rapidly becoming a national center of excellence for innovation and entrepreneurship through the high impact work at Atwood Innovation Plaza that has produced 135 patent applications and incubated dozens of new businesses, most of which come from students. We will deploy tech tools such as apps and software to support broad and diverse teams of citizen scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs collaborating alongside faculty, staff and students in communities of discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship.

By embracing inclusion, DSU will make learning accessible to everyone. Faculty and staff will value and promote diversity and equality of opportunity, particularly with regard to disability, gender, age and ethnicity. Inclusive teaching methods will be adopted by faculty to create a sense of “belonging” that is known to improve learning and persistence, especially for students from historically underrepresented groups and students with disabilities. Building a sense of belonging for students from underrepresented groups and for students with disabilities will also require partnerships with social and professional networks as well as human services organizations who can augment campus support services to elevate student success.

Fulfilling the mission and vision as an open inclusive university means being committed to building a university based on a core set of values including collaboration, sharing, transparency, community and inclusion. We believe every person has the potential to succeed in work and life if given access and opportunity to learn. DSU will provide that access and opportunity as a core characteristic of being a premier public university and a university of first choice.

Submitted by MICHAEL LACOURSE, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Dixie State University.

Ed. Note: This is the third in a three-part series of Op-Eds from Lacourse on the future of Dixie State. Read part one here and part two here.

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!