Dickinson State enters the esports game

Tucked away in the back corner of the Dickinson State University Student Center basement, adjacent the cafeteria, is a room like many others on campus.

Seven desks, each with large computers and monitors, complete with webcams, line the room’s interior walls. Next to each desk sits large, comfortable-looking upholstered leather chairs. To the unknowing eye, the room appears to be nothing more than an upscale computer lab.

However, in the fall, the small room painted in DSU blue, white and gray colors will be the core of what the university hopes becomes its next extracurricular activity, and potentially even its next varsity sport.

The lab is home to DSU’s fledgeling esports program.

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Opportunity of a lifetime: DSU CB Jay Liggins hoping for shot at the NFL

Jay Liggins was 11 years old when he left Memphis, Tenn. He remembers it was a Thursday.

Just four days earlier, his mother had made an abrupt decision to move he and his 10 siblings across the country to escape inner-city violence and find a hometown more suitable for raising a large family.

Of all places, they ended up in Bismarck, N.D., a city one-tenth the size of Memphis in a state none of them had ever been to and knew little about.

“It was such a random decision,” Liggins said.

Yet it was one that became incredibly fateful to Liggins’ future, despite numerous challenges he would end up facing along the way.

Later this month, the former Dickinson State University standout cornerback will likely get an opportunity to be the first Blue Hawk signed by a National Football League team.

“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” Liggins said. “It’s something I wanted to do, and the fact that it’s in front of me, I had to grab it.”

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DSU shuttering Strom Center: Grant funding struggles, foundation dissolution led to entrepreneurship center’s closure

Ray Ann Kilen said she cried as Dickinson State University President Tom Mitzel told her the university would be closing the school’s Strom Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Still, the Strom Center director said she understood the “business decision” the university was forced to make.

“At the end of the day, you have to take care of the core business, which is the university,” Kilen said. “I commend him (Mitzel) and I don’t have any criticism of his decision based on the business decision that says we have to take care of the university first.”

The Strom Center, which opened in 2007 in DSU’s off-campus building in north Dickinson, will close April 11. It has four full-time employees, including Kilen, a part-time administrative worker and two student interns.

The Strom Center is financed through a mixture of state, federal and private grants, and is not accounted for in DSU’s operating budget — which was recently slashed $1 million because of state-mandated 4.05 percent across-the-board cuts.

“It’s a difficult economic time,” Mitzel said. “Grants aren’t easy to pursue. They haven’t been able to uphold that end of the business.”

Kilen said the Strom Center was also no longer receiving endowment funds that had been channeled to it through the old DSU Foundation, which is in financial receivership.

“Had we not lost our support through the foundation, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Kilen said in an interview.

Kilen and Mitzel said while grant money was slowly trickling in, it wasn’t coming fast enough to sustain the Strom Center’s operation.

“We knew that we were upside down financially,” Kilen said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

The Strom Center was started through donations by DSU alumni Jerome and Rosie Strom and local businesses. Its goal was to help revitalize the southwest North Dakota economy by encouraging entrepreneurs.

Kilen said she estimates that since it opened, the Strom Center has impacted about 1,500 businesses and helped 200 small businesses get started. She also estimates the center has helped small businesses access a combined $100 million in lending capital.

The Strom Center also houses the regional office of the Small Business Development Center, TechWest, as well as other state-based business programs.

Mitzel said DSU will work to transition services the Strom Center provides to departments on DSU’s campus.

“We’ll be reaching out to all the main entities and the services it has been providing to keep them going,” Mitzel said.

Kilen said she’s still committed to DSU and the Strom Center’s initial mission, and hopes to help assure its work isn’t undone because of its closure.

“My commitment has always been to the people we serve,” she said. “I love what I do and I feel very passionate about the industry I work in and the clients we’ve supported. My next step would be to talk to partners to understand where those new relationships can be built so the people we serve can continue having services.”


A veteran’s farewell: Benesh, who helped plan military memorial services in town for 16 years, steps aside

   Brian Benesh, right, speaks Wednesday during Veterans Day Services at Stickney Auditorium in Dickinson State University’s May Hall.

Brian Benesh, right, speaks Wednesday during Veterans Day Services at Stickney Auditorium in Dickinson State University’s May Hall.

When Brian Benesh began planning Veterans Day Services in Dickinson 16 years ago, they were held at the St. Anthony Club.

Over the years, attendance has grown so much that the services need to be held at Stickney Auditorium in Dickinson State University’s May Hall, one of the city’s largest venues.

Benesh said Wednesday during the service’s recognition ceremony that he’s stepping down as the planner of Veterans Day and Memorial Day events to focus his volunteerism on memorializing veterans’ gravesites in cemeteries with American flags.

“The time has come for me to just spend my time and efforts on my cemeteries and honoring those people,” Benesh said. “These programs will run themselves. That won’t be a problem. But it’s time to let go.”

First Sgt. Scott Obrigewitch, a Dickinson teacher and master of ceremonies for Wednesday’s service, said he didn’t have to worry about the program with Benesh in charge.

“When he calls me up, it’s pretty much planned,” Obrigewitch said. “He has everything lined up.”

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Editorial: New DSU president must bring pride, people back

Congratulations and welcome to Thomas Mitzel, the next president of Dickinson State University. Mitzel will become the newest leader in our community when he takes office in January, and a leader he will very much need to be.

Expectations have never been higher for an incoming DSU president. Mitzel will not only be expected to increase enrollment rather quickly, but also help the university establish a new and trustworthy alumni foundation, all while improving community relations.

We, and the rest of the community, want and expect DSU to return to its glory days. But there’s much Mitzel and his new staff must do before that happens.

He should listen to the needs of his faculty and staff, and weed out those who believe the status quo is the only way to go. He must convince the most hardheaded at his school that there are better ways of doing business than by ignoring problems and then wondering why problems linger for years.

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