BROOKINGS – South Dakota State University President Barry Dunn announced Thursday $4.1 million from two separate commitments to support the Wokini Initiative.
An anonymous donor has committed $4 million for the construction of a new American Indian student center on campus and another $100,000 to scholarships for students of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota tribes in South Dakota.
The announcement was made during a campus event that included South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard.
“Today is an extremely important day for both the university and the state of South Dakota,” Dunn said. “These transformational commitments will not only provide a campus home for our American Indian students, but they will also help provide access for those students throughout the state who want to gain the knowledge and advancement that higher education provides. The facility will recognize opportunity and American Indian culture while also, combined with the scholarships, support students needs to ensure academic success.”
The South Dakota Board of Regents approved a preliminary facility statement for the center during its June meeting. The building request will next move to South Dakota State Legislature for final approval in 2018.
The facility will be a crown jewel of the Wokini Initiative, an initiative announced by Dunn in January that means “new beginning” and will offer programming and support to enrolled members of the nine tribal nations in South Dakota interested in gaining access to educational and advancement opportunities at SDSU. The initiative will also enhance research and outreach collaboration and programs with tribes, tribal colleges and other tribal organizations in the state.
“Ensuring student success and advancement has many important aspects,” Dunn said. “The Wokini Initiative identifies those paths and the need for stable funding and resources to recruit, retain and graduate Native American students with degrees that will have meaningful impact on their communities. The American Indian Student Center will serve as the hub for many of those resources and as a place for learning, collaboration and the mentoring needed for students entering an environment for the first time.”
The new center is anticipated to consist of 10,000-15,000 square feet of space and be located on the south edge of campus near Eighth Street and Campanile Avenue. Renderings, final location and a construction timeline will be determined once approved by the Legislature and when a primary architecture and engineering firm is hired.
Currently, nearly 9 percent of South Dakota’s population is American Indian while approximately 1 percent of SDSU enrollment consists of American Indian or Alaska Native students. A goal of the Wokini Initiative is to increase enrollment in American Indian students to better reflect the demographic trend of the state.