It is hard to imagine Spearfish’s past or future economic growth without the invaluable contributions of Black Hills State University (BHSU). Since its foundation as Dakota Territorial Normal School in 1883, BHSU has played a crucial role in Spearfish’s development as the second largest community in western South Dakota.
In addition to being one of Spearfish’s largest employers, the faculty, staff, students and alumni of BHSU are woven into the fabric of our community. From athletic events and theatrical productions to sustainability projects and volunteer activities, BHSU’s presence is felt daily. Spearfish Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) appreciates first-hand BHSU’s impact as numerous members of the SEDC Board of Directors, SEDC Marketing Coordinator Laine Mitchell and yours truly are all proud Yellow Jackets.
But BHSU’s influence goes well beyond Spearfish and western South Dakota. Seventy-five percent of the university’s student body originates from South Dakota’s 66 counties with the remaining twenty-five percent hailing from 43 other states and 29 countries. According to an economic impact report sponsored by the South Dakota Board of Regents and the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry, BHSU generates approximately $258 million of annual economic impact to South Dakota.
With a graduate placement rate of over ninety percent, BHSU’s School of Education has firmly established itself as one of the top education programs in the region and the largest teacher preparation program in South Dakota. However, with over 80 bachelor's, associate's, and master's degree programs, BHSU has significantly diversified and grown from its early roots as a “normal school.”
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The College of Business and Natural Sciences continues to both broaden its mission and increase partnerships with the Black Hills business community. BHSU has earned accreditation with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International. Only 694 schools of business, or less than five percent worldwide, have attained this mark of excellence. Furthermore, BHSU-Rapid City has experienced forty percent growth in their associate degree in business program.
BHSU is also actively involved in cutting-edge research at the Sanford Underground Research Facility at the former Homestake Gold Mine. Located at the 4,850 level of the lab, the BHSU Underground Campus provides a unique environment for a wide variety of collaborative experiments in physics, chemistry and biology.
Recognizing the considerable growth within the outdoor recreation industry, BHSU will offer a new certificate in adventure education beginning this fall. The certificate, which can stand alone or be combined with other academic programs, requires the completion of coursework in outdoor technical skills, management of outdoor programs, and a wilderness first responder course. This exciting new initiative complements SEDC’s ongoing efforts to attract additional outdoor product companies to our growing community.
Earlier this year, South Dakota native Laurie Stenberg Nichols was named BHSU Interim President. Dr. Nichols previously served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at South Dakota State University as well as University of Wyoming President. SEDC looks forward to partnering with Dr. Nichols and the entire BHSU team on achieving our shared goals for economic prosperity in Spearfish and the Black Hills region.