Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains-----
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Tom Daschle has agreed to have his alma mater, SDSU, be the custodian for the official papers accrued during his 26-year Congressional career. For SDSU, the papers mean a building to house them and make them available to scholars, but also to be the campus home of a supporting organization that will bring in important speakers and programs relative to policies and public service to the state.
Steve Erpenbach, now with the SDSU Foundation, outlined the advantages for the university Friday at the Dollar-A-Month Club luncheon meeting. Steve was the state director of the Daschle Senate staff in South Dakota.
Universities that can bring in prominent speakers and scholars for special programs attract more students, more capable students, and support for their overall programs. In South Dakota, USD and Augustana have centers that sponsor and organize programs involving world and national authorities on public issues. Brookings will be able to join that roster with a Daschle center and will be able to bring attention, resources, and support to its academic programs through the center.What about Aberdeen?
A number of individuals and groups have been working industriously to encourage the establishment of some kind of public policy organization in conjunction with Tom Daschle's hometown, Aberdeen, and possibly NSU. One alumnus has proposed a public service school at NSU. Another group has proposed a think tank with a larger focus on the northern plains with NSU involved. However, the political forces that appear to exert the most influence over NSU have eliminated the university from serious consideration from the outset. When consultants did a survey of the resources for some kind of program, Presentation College showed much more potential than did NSU for being the Aberdeen link to an academic-based program on the northern plains.
NSU has enrollment problems. Enrollments appear to be linked to reputation problems. Part of that reputation is that the institution has been politicized into an ultra-conservative partisan institution. Whether that perception is accurate or not, progressive organizations have put NSU on their "avoid" lists for prospective students. Daschle contacts are extremely reticent about NSU as a site or partner in any public service ventures.
The outlook for SDSU, however, is bright and promising, as the university looks toward new dimensions of academic work.