Tom Jackson Jr. was the vice president for student affairs at the University of Louisville before it was announced in April that he had been named the 10th president of Black Hills State University, replacing Kay Schallenkamp who had previously announced her retirement.
On Tuesday, Jackson visited the Rapid City Journal and answered five questions about his new job.
Q: Now that you have been on the job for a few weeks, what are your three major goals as Black Hills State University president?
A: “The largest goal is to continue to strengthen our relationship with Sanford Underground Research Facility. It’s what Sanford represents not only to the total body of scholarly work scientifically, it’s also what they represent for opportunities for undergraduate students to improve their research agenda working collaboratively with scientists and others at Sanford.
“The second one is the University Center Rapid City (UCRC). It's because we have this large number of first-time adult learners. South Dakota wants their citizens to earn degrees and many first-timers start at UCRC taking courses that didn’t fit into their schedule. The importance of providing access to individuals in the community is extremely important.
“The third is discovering and cultivating new revenue sources for the university. As we have a stable, if not flat tax base, creating new revenue streams and partnerships with corporations or alumni or other individuals is important to the livelihood of the university.”
Q: What role should BHSU play in the South Dakota higher education system?
“When we have a challenge in society, we usually ask a college graduate to solve it. Our role in South Dakota is to create an educated citizenry. People who can critically think and solve complex problems and lead in solving those complex problems across any discipline.”
Q: With average student debt rising, how to you keep college affordable for West River students?
“There are really three categories of students. There are those that have the means to just write a check, there are those who get government aid and there is everyone in between. Most people fall into that middle part.
“There is also the cost of not succeeding in higher education. So if we have a student that comes to BH and fails, that’s not just the loss of a headcount or a student, that student now has debt that they have no means to pay and we’ve lost maybe a future brilliant scholar that could have solved something later on.
“Our challenge is to make sure if we can get you to college, any college, that you finish someplace.”
Q: What is the university's response to the BHSU ROTC sergeant accused of rape? How is the university prepared to handle sexual assault cases?
“That’s a major concern across every university in the United States. Major concern. Now, it’s not necessarily a major problem, it’s a major concern. … How can we make our environment safe for all our students, not just the women, but also our men?
“That’s disappointing. He’s accused and we will see what happens. Whatever happens will come out as it should. The Army will do what it has to do and BH will do what it has to do to keep our students safe like any other university.”
Q: Can you tell us something surprising about yourself?
“I am a pilot, an instrument-rated pilot. I like the freedom of space. It is slow motion, everything is in slow motion … the air is calm. I just feel special.”