South Dakota State announces Mike Huether Public Service Academy

SDSU Marketing & Communications
Posted 4/12/24

BROOKINGS — Former, current and future public servants gathered Tuesday to celebrate the creation of the Mike Huether Public Service Academy at South Dakota State University.

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South Dakota State announces Mike Huether Public Service Academy


BROOKINGS — Former, current and future public servants gathered Tuesday to celebrate the creation of the Mike Huether Public Service Academy at South Dakota State University.

Located within SDSU’s School of American and Global Studies, the program aims to develop exceptional leaders and professionals who are committed to improving the lives of individuals, communities and societies. The two-year, competitive program, open to all majors, will start in fall 2024.

The Mike Huether Public Service Academy is funded with lead gifts from SDSU alums Mike and Cindy Huether and businessman and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford. It will empower students with the necessary knowledge, skills and values to act with integrity and serve as active citizens and citizen-leaders throughout their lives.

“Today marks the culmination of a shared vision between SDSU, the School of American and Global Studies and alumnus and former Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether to establish a premier undergraduate program dedicated to developing the next generation of leaders committed to public service,” said Christine Garst-Santos, director of the School of American and Global Studies. “The academy embodies our unwavering commitment to excellence and our shared responsibility to solve society’s greatest challenges.”

Blending academic rigor with hands-on experiences, the program will offer a diverse curriculum encompassing ethics, government, public administration and cross-cultural competence. Mandatory service learning, internships and education abroad opportunities will enrich students' understanding and practical application of their learning.

The academy will select up to 50 exceptional scholars annually, drawn from varied backgrounds and disciplines, united by a shared ambition to make a difference. Over two years, students will undergo intensive leadership development, earn a certificate in public service, engage in public service internships, and participate in Passion in Action Challenges and the annual Mike Huether Public Service Academy Conference.

Overall, the Mike Huether Public Service Academy aims to address the greatest challenges facing communities and strengthen democracy through the empowerment of public servants from all sectors.

Huether, who graduated from South Dakota State with a Bachelor of Science in commercial economics in 1984 and was heavily involved in Students’ Association and athletics, served as mayor of Sioux Falls for two terms, from 2010 to 2018.

Now an author and public speaker, Huether’s leadership and business skills were honed for 25 years at Citibank in South Dakota, New York and Texas, along with PREMIER Bankcard in Sioux Falls. He left corporate America as an executive vice president to pursue his dream of public service held since the sixth grade in his hometown of Yankton.

While SDSU had quality professors and educators when Huether was a student, he said there was no program tailored for students who were driven by leadership principles, excited about public service and highly motivated to give back to society in an influential way.

“SDSU didn’t have it back then, but I am so incredibly thrilled and proud to announce, South Dakota State University, in my home state of South Dakota, has it now,” Huether said.

“Due to the collaboration, sacrifice, vision and hard work of so many at SDSU and beyond, any students who enroll in the Public Service Academy will learn the importance of civic action, the joy and rewards of public service, how to get things done in a collaborative way, that problems can be solved when common ground is found, and most importantly, that these students can and will leave their towns, states and our nation better,” he added.

David Knudson, attorney and public servant, spoke on behalf of Sanford, who has a passion for helping young people and giving them opportunities to flourish.

“Denny is very pleased to be part of the philanthropic support for the Mike Huether Public Service Academy, a new program at SDSU, which will help students develop their skills to match their interests and desire for public service,” Knudson said. “I look forward to the impact future alumni of the academy will have on our state and our nation.”

Preliminary discussions for the academy began in fall 2019, and Huether credited the efforts of Steve Erpenbach and Mike Birgen at the SDSU Foundation and Provost Dennis Hedge, Garst-Santos and other leaders at SDSU for making his dream become reality. He also thanked Sanford for his contribution to the academy and highlighted the influences of former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, Sanford, Knudson and businessmen and philanthropists Dana Dykhouse and Miles Beacom.

Hedge said the program will be transformational for SDSU and its students.

“This is going to prepare our students to become local, national and global thought-leaders. The graduates of this academy will have learned the skills and abilities to engage and lead within their communities, and they’ll help shape public policy,” Hedge said.