Dunn was selected on Monday, April 25, 2016, as the schools
20th president. Dunn currently serves as dean of the universitys
College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences. (photo courtesy
of South Dakota State University)
The next president of South Dakota State University will bring
with him a rare perspective for the leader of a state institution.
Barry Dunn, 62, is an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe
and spent more than a quarter of his life living on the reservation.
It's unclear whether Dunn will be the first South Dakota college
president with a tribal affiliation, but his status is still noteworthy
in a state where educators struggle to close Native American achievement
gaps and tribal members are underrepresented in leadership roles.
"Many of our institutional presidents have certainly reached
out to the Native American population and the tribal colleges and
tried to establish good working relationships ... but there's something
to be said about having one of your own in those positions,"
said Mike Rush, executive director of the South Dakota Board of
Dunn's mother, Sarah Lamoureaux Dunn, was born on the Rosebud
Indian Reservation and moved as a child to Iowa. From there, she
went to Iowa State University before returning to South Dakota.
"My mother got access to higher education through the land
grant university system," Dunn told the Argus Leader (http://argusne.ws/1OgKFSy
). "And that elevated our family life and challenged me. Her
experience there would not have been possible at other universities
and colleges in the U.S. It's very poignant to me, a very important
story to me."
Dunn and his family returned to the Rosebud reservation after
graduating from SDSU in 1975. He and his wife lived there for 17
years, and Dunn maintains relationships with the Rosebud community.
As president of South Dakota's largest university, Dunn said
he will be committed to addressing achievement gaps in higher education.
He said he is proud of his Lakota roots and wants to strengthen
SDSU's relationships with tribal colleges without trying to lure
students away from those institutions.
"I feel very committed to using that time wisely and in
an impactful manner, really in honor of my mother, to do everything
I can," Dunn said.
Richie Meyers, director of tribal outreach for SDSU and an enrolled
member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, said Dunn will need to balance
tribal loyalty with dedication to the state's public universities.
Striking that complicated balance will help Dunn as he takes the
helm, Meyers said.
"Dean Dunn truly does understand this complexity, and that's
why it is a very positive and exciting time to see him as president,"
Frank Pommersheim, who teaches Indian law at the University
of South Dakota, said it's important that state institutions reflect
the diversity of the state, and that Native Americans are underrepresented
in leadership roles, especially at higher levels.
"This is just an indication of a step forward, to have
diversity and reflection of the state's makeup at a very, very high
level," Pommersheim said.
For Rush, Dunn's leadership will be an asset for reaching out
to Native Americans to ensure they are given opportunities to succeed
in higher education.
Said Rush: "Part of that success is having role models
and people that students can look to and say, 'Yes, I could become
president of SDSU, and I can see the value of participating in higher
education at all levels.'"