Beacom College At DSU A Step Forward For South Dakota
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard
South Dakota is full of “hidden gems.” One secret we’ve kept too well is Dakota State University. DSU is one of the nation’s leading schools for cybersecurity, and it is rising to a new level of excellence.
Earlier this month, I went to Madison for a ribbon cutting for the Beacom Institute of Technology. This new facility at Dakota State was built through the generosity of Miles and Lisa Beacom and T. Denny Sanford, and it will house several of DSU’s cutting-edge programs.
The day brought another surprise, however: a second gift from Sanford and the Beacoms. Their surprise $30 million pledge will newly name the Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences. The state will contribute an additional $10 million, and DSU has agreed to leverage the gift for $20 million in federal support. All told, this will create a $60 million impact on DSU.
The Beacom College will build on Dakota State’s record of excellence. DSU already holds four prestigious Center of Excellence designations from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, including the most technical (for Cyber Operations) and the most prestigious (as a Cyber Defense Consultative Regional Resource Center). Dakota State is one of only four universities in the nation to have this latter distinction – and one of only two universities in the country with four or more designations.
Now Beacom College at DSU will rise to a new level. With this new gift, the university will break ground next spring on “MadLabs,” a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility that allows students and faculty to work upon confidential and proprietary information without leaving campus. This significant gift will also fund student scholarships and support for additional faculty and staff.
South Dakota’s young people, and their parents, need to know that they do not need to leave our state to receive a world-class education in the high-need, high-tech fields of computer and cyber sciences. U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, who is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, played an important role in planning for last Sunday’s surprise. As he explained that day, cybersecurity is perhaps the most significant national security issue facing our nation, and these skills are in high demand in government and in the private sector.
The Beacom College will create new opportunities for our young people, and new employers will be attracted to hire employees with old-fashioned South Dakota work ethic combined with world-class cybersecurity training.
It was over thirty years ago that Gov. Bill Janklow proposed converting Dakota State from a normal school to a “computer school.” It was a visionary change to make in 1984. Now, the Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences is taking another huge step forward, thanks to the vision of Denny Sanford, Miles and Lisa Beacom, Dakota State President José-Marie Griffiths, and many other South Dakota leaders. It’s time we set aside our South Dakota humility, and express our pride about this “hidden gem.”