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NSU president delivers 2012-13 convocation
Northern State University President Jim Smith discussed campus improvements, student enrollment and retention, and more at Tuesday morning’s 2012-13 convocation.

Smith delivered his speech to a packed room of faculty and staff in the Johnson Fine Arts Center (JFAC) Red Room.

“We are in a tremendous period of change,” he said.

Smith encouraged people to view the improvements at the Barnett Center and try out Einstein Bros. Bagels in the Student Center. Work in the Student Center will be done by Friday, he said.
 
He also discussed renovations in Spafford Hall and the Krikac Administration Building. The Krikac project includes refurbishing stained glass windows and replacing seats in the auditorium, which will be used for classes and recitals.
 
Significant renovations are also planned for JFAC, which has hosted huge audiences for events such as last fall’s “Phantom of the Opera,” last spring’s Kansas concert and last week’s back-to-school workshop.

Retention must be a focus this year, Smith said – and everyone on campus must be recruitment and retention specialists. Smith also said student enrollment appears to be moving upward, and new freshmen were being admitted as recently as Monday. Residence halls are at 95 percent capacity – and that is after adding 21 beds due to last year’s overflow situation.

Northern is approved by the Board of Regents to offer nearly 200 online courses.

“We are solidifying our commitment to anytime, anywhere learning,” Smith said.

NSU has met and probably exceeded its Northern Impact campaign goal of $27.2 million, he said. A great percentage of that money goes to the Northern WolfPACT Scholarship, the highest guaranteed four-year scholarship in South Dakota.

Smith praised Northern’s Dr. Steven Usitalo, associate professor of history, who traveled to Armenia after receiving a yearlong Fulbright Research and Teaching Award. Usitalo spent a year extensively travelling in a region that's been the focus of his research and teaching for many years. Smith also recognized NSU Fulbright scholars past and present.

He said students need to be made aware of NSU’s study abroad opportunities – Northern has partnerships with 48 universities in 18 countries.

Smith also praised Coach Don Meyer who, despite recent surgery, will conduct his upcoming workshops. That includes one in Aberdeen on Thursday, as well as one in Jackson, Miss., where nearly 150 professionals will hear his message.
 
 “This is his joy,” Smith said.