One of the benefits of studying science in the U.S. is the emphasis on individual contributions and creative solutions to problems. This is not a universal strategy worldwide, and my education as a biologist and professional experiences have prepared me for my current position leading the business and science schools at Black Hills State University (BHSU).
At BHSU, our eight specializations in business (including Accounting, Marketing, Finance and Tourism) are housed within the same college as the natural sciences. The natural sciences at BHSU include biology, chemistry, environmental physical science, and applied health sciences.
What do these two “schools” — business and the sciences — have in common? At Black Hills State there is an overarching appetite amongst our students, faculty, and staff in these schools for innovation, experimentation, success, and economic development. Business and science have much more in common than you might think — and in many ways the disciplines complement one another. Our students come from a variety of backgrounds and with varying experiences including directly from high school, technical school graduates, transferring from another school, or after years in the workforce.
Black Hills State alum Jake Bernards attended Western Dakota Tech earning his associate degree in transportation technology. He then completed his bachelor’s in business at Black Hills State. He now works as an assistant commercial relationship manager at First Interstate Bank in Rapid City, having completed a management traineeship with the company. In his role, Jake is a trusted advisor helping businesses meet their objectives with funding throughout the business life cycle.
Our goal at Black Hills State is to support student learning from arrival as freshman with interests and a dream, to when graduates leave campus with knowledge, skills, and a portfolio of experiences that prove readiness for the next step on their professional journey.
“Every obstacle is an opportunity.” In the sciences, that statement might mean that although we have tried Experiment A before, we can alter it in some, even small, way. It now becomes an entirely different experiment. It’s like an unsuccessful business idea — we can try again in a new time and new location. In both business and science we learn from our failures and work towards better outcomes. The path of this recent grad shows that approach.
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Black Hills State grad Kelsey Ruzicka bought an existing, local communication company from a fellow BHSU alum. Kelsey has since grown and restructured the business, Moxie Marketing of the Midwest, which is based out of Belle Fourche, and offers a full-range of design services. The entrepreneurial emphasis Kelsey chose through the Business School at BHSU has helped her run her own company and tune in to the needs of her clients.
Here is an example of how Black Hills State ensures our students have the knowledge and skills for their next career step. This semester we launched a “Business Buzz” speaker series on campus. Our inaugural speaker was Julie Olsen, co-owner of Turner Lee Consulting & Design, a marketing firm specializing in product packaging. Julie is also an adjunct teaching a Sales course on campus this semester, emphasizing development of professional skills and exchange of ideas and site visits with local businesses.
Like Julie, I invite you — the business leaders in our community — to campus at BHSU to speak with our students. Whether formally in our new speaker series, in a class that aligns with your experience, or during our Employer in the Foyer time where you can recruit future employees, your knowledge is valuable.
Last year BHSU graduated 91 new businesspeople and 74 new scientists. We are working to prepare students with the foundation to adapt, learn, grow and contribute to your company, and/or create their own. I welcome you to share with me your insights into what you think our students need to succeed and how we can collaborate to ensure your organization has the workforce to accomplish your goals.
Finances are an obstacle for many BHSU students. Our students at BHSU are hardworking and benefit greatly from scholarship assistance. If you or your organization can help support education in any way — whether through tuition reimbursement, paid internships, or scholarships, let’s talk about making that happen. Your intern of today could be your best employee tomorrow. Every obstacle, even financial ones, are opportunities to support and encourage the next generation of productive, and fulfilled, workers.