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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Symposium Attendees Ted-Set on Plans for Roosevelt Library in Dickinson

Louise W. Knight got her hands dirty Saturday morning.

The author and historian from Evanston, Ill., who is in Dickinson as a speaker at the Theodore Roosevelt Symposium, tore into the bark of cottonwood trees at the behest of Roosevelt scholar and symposium leader Clay Jenkinson.

As Jenkinson spoke about the process for how the trees will soon be used to build a replica of Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch cabin, Knight wrapped her hands around the bark and started to pull. In all, she tore off about 10 feet of bark from a cottonwood sitting at the site of the proposed Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library.

“The most fun work is where you see the results right away, and this is that kind of work,” Knight said with a smile.

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DSU Enrollment up 5 Percent: Mitzel Says Heritage Foundation’s Work Essential to Growth

Dickinson State University’s fall semester enrollment increased 5 percent from last year.

It’s a small but significant increase as the College on the Hill rebuilds its reputation under a new administration following years of enrollment and foundation scandals.

DSU President Thomas Mitzel said Tuesday that fundraising efforts by the DSU Heritage Foundation – formed last year after the old DSU Alumni and Foundation was forced into receivership by the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office – was essential in helping recruit new students to the university.

“You never want to have to start a new foundation, but by doing so I think we were able to target some very nice scholarship packages for students,” Mitzel said.

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BUILDING PROBLEMS: DSU Housing Complex Sits Empty as Neighbors Voice Concerns About Parking, Future Use

A four-story building meant to provide off-campus housing to Dickinson State University students is sitting empty this semester, and neighborhood residents are trying to keep it that way.

Blue Hawk Square, located two blocks south of the university on West Villard Street, became another casualty of the DSU Foundation’s dissolution in June when Dacotah Bank acquired the property from a deed in lieu of foreclosure.

Now, the bank is working with DSU and the city to get students back in the 44-unit apartment building as early as the spring semester.

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‘Critical’ Witness in DSU Foundation Case to Plead Fifth Amendment

A key witness in the state’s case against the Dickinson State University Foundation is invoking his Fifth Amendment right by refusing to testify. Parrell Grossman, attorney with the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office told Southwest District Judge William Herauf.

Grossman, representing the state Thursday during a request for summary judgement hearing, said the “very critical” witness “has a lot of key information” and could incriminate himself through testimony. However, he did not name him.

The announcement caught Judge Herauf off guard, and he expressed surprise at the news.

“He knows more about anything that went on here than anyone else,” Grossman added. “He’s certainly entitled to do that to the extent that what he might say could result in criminal charges.”

Grossman added there are other witnesses beyond the man invoking the Fifth Amendment who have also given the state “some resistance” in request for testimony.

The announcement came after Herauf denied a motion for summary judgement requested by First International Bank and Trust of Watford City, an intervener in the case, regarding the validity and priority of debts owed to it by the DSU Foundation.

Herauf’s denial pushed all further arguments in the case to a scheduled two-day hearing Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, though Jon Brakke — the attorney for First International Bank and Trust — expressed concern. Grossman agreed that it wouldn’t be enough time for Herauf to sufficiently hear the entire case and that it could require more than a week.

The judge agreed and said the hearings will stretch out as long as they need to.

Herauf said he has found the case against the DSU Foundation to be entirely unique in North Dakota case law, as there are no true precedents.

“I’ve spent some sleepless nights on this and I’ve spent many hours reading the statutes,” Herauf said.

Herauf said while he wants the case to have an amicable conclusion in which both the defendants, plaintiffs and intervening parties can all reach reasonable outcomes, he’s doubtful that’ll happen.

“One side or the other is not going to be happy with how this comes out. That’s a concern I have,” he said.

He also expressed concern for the DSU Foundation donors, many of whose money cannot be accounted for by either the state-appointed receiver or Brady Martz accountants, saying they trusted their money to the foundation without any real ability to protect themselves.

“Then the DSU Foundation did a whole bunch of stuff that didn’t work out … and now we have this problem.”

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.”


Mitzel: DSU Working to Trim Budget

Dickinson State President Thomas Mitzel said Tuesday that the university isn’t cutting positions or paychecks as it begins trimming about $1.1 million from its budget, as it was ordered to do Monday by Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

“One of the things we want to make sure we do is continue the university moving forward, and not let this slow our progress,” said Mitzel, who is in his fi rst semester at DSU.

Mitzel said DSU was already prepared to cut 2.5 percent from its budget before Dalrymple ordered state agencies who receive general fund appropriations to cut 4.05 percent from their budgets. The announcement came after the Offi ce of Management and Budget announced a $1 billion revenue shortfall due to falling oil and agriculture commodity prices.

Mitzel said he didn’t have details of where the university would be making cuts, but credited its fi nancial team for planning ahead. He said he will meet with his cabinet this week to discuss areas where DSU can trim an additional 1.5 percent from the school’s budget.

“What prepping for the 2.5 percent did was it made us look at all of our different budget lines,” Mitzel said. “Where we may have surplus, where we really could not cut, where we could reallocate, and we’ve gone through most of those mind exercises already.”

The university’s general fund appropriation for 2015-17 biennium was more than $27 million, according to documents made available on DSU’s website.

Mitzel said DSU’s proposed budget cuts could be submitted to North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott by as early as Friday.

Mitzel said the goal is to make cuts where students won’t be affected, “especially with their education.”

“We’re going to come out of this OK,” Mitzel said. “I never want to take away the signifi cance of a cut, because it’s never fun. But we’re going to come out of this OK.”