BROOKINGS – Against the backdrop of a rainy Tuesday afternoon, dignitaries and guests moved indoors to the lobby of the Architecture, Mathematics & Engineering Building on the South Dakota State University campus for a ceremonial groundbreaking, with brought-in dirt, for the American Indian Student Center.
The cost of the 12,400-square-foot building, to be constructed on the north end of the Rotunda Green, is estimated to be $4.5 million. Private donor funds will provide $4 million; the remaining $500,000 will come from school and public lands cash.
The center will have office space, meeting rooms, multipurpose rooms, technology resources, student support space and academic support space; its primary function is student support and programming services.
Following his welcoming of dignitaries and attendees, who filled the lobby to standing room only, SDSU President Barry Dunn had thanks for the many people who made the center a reality. He had special thanks for District 7 state lawmakers Sen. Larry Tidemann and Rep. Tim Reed: “Without their leadership, this project would not have been approved by the Legislature,” the president said.
Dunn called the Wokini Initiative “an intentional step, an effort to reach a population that had long been underserved by public higher education in a state that has a long and dramatic relationship with American Indians. … We needed a new beginning, a new step.”
He added that the center “will serve as a beacon of opportunity for Native American students throughout the state who want to benefit from the knowledge and advancement opportunities that higher education provides.
“The facility will recognize American Indian culture. … The center will serve as a home away from home for young people; but also our whole campus community will benefit as we collectively learn more about our past and the cultures of the tribal nations.”
Gene Thin Elk, a tribal representative who had earlier blessed the site, thanked Dunn and “all the people who worked so hard to make this a reality.” He added that some of the students who would be coming into the center “will be our children and our grandchildren from individual indigenous nations.”
The new facility will be tied to and closely support “The Wokini Initiative: A Strategic Investment to Better Serve the Dakota and Lakota Residents of South Dakota,” detailed by SDSU President Barry Dunn in White Paper dated Jan. 2, 2017.
The Wokini Initiative “will offer programming and support to those citizens of the nine tribal nations in South Dakota interested in gaining access to educational and advancement opportunities at South Dakota State University and enhanced research and outreach collaborations and programs with tribes, tribal colleges and other tribal organizations.”
The initiative’s programs will be developed by SDSU staff and faculty working with tribes, tribal leaders, tribal members from across the state and the four tribal colleges in South Dakota.
The TSP firm is providing architectural and engineering services.