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University Status Imminent for Dixie State

On Friday, January 25th, 2013, the Utah Board of Regents granted approval to Dixie State College (DSC) to become Dixie State University. This approval is the first of 3 which are required to officially grant Dixie State status as a university. On Monday, January 28, the Utah State Legislature began its 2013 session and will have the opportunity to decide the fate of the historical institution. If the legislature signs off on the increased status, the final decision lies with Utah Governor Gary Herbert, who, according to DSC president, Stephen Nadauld, has already promised support. Barring any unforeseen events in the senate or house, it appears that St. George will soon be home to a fully accredited University.

As an alumnus of Dixie State College, I am pleased my alma mater has reached the next rung on the ladder of higher education. But what does this mean for you and for our community? As a university, Dixie State will be able to offer Master and Doctorate degree programs, it should attract better and more qualified professors, and should see increased enrollment from students. The addition of post-graduate degrees will go a long way toward providing a well educated work-force, which should in turn attract business that may have otherwise shied away from Southern Utah. Simply put, having a university in St. George should be good for the economy.

Amid the excitement of becoming a University, the name selection process for the institution generated a lot of heat. I’m not referring to the warm temperatures that make life in Southern Utah so wonderful (as I write, I’m looking at blue skies, red rocks, and am enjoying temps near 60 degree). I’m referring to the negative connotations associated with the word ‘Dixie.’ You might be wondering how the term even became associated with southern Utah:

A quick history lesson reveals that in the fall of 1861, just after the outbreak of The Civil War, leaders of the Mormon Church called over 300 families to the “Cotton Mission,” sending them to the (present day) St. George valley to grow cotton. With the War Between the States raging on, reliable supplies of cotton from the Southern States became uncertain. Many of the families assigned to the Cotton Mission were originally from the South, and possessed the knowledge and skills to cultivate the crop. Paying homage to their origins, the settlers dubbed the region “Utah’s Dixie.”

Growing up in Southern Utah, I attended Dixie Middle School, Dixie High School, and graduated from Dixie State College, and all the while, ‘Dixie’ was synonymous with Southern Utah. Yes, I understand that in other parts of the country, the term ‘Dixie’ conjures up images of slavery, and has been abandoned by numerous institutions, but in Southern Utah, the term inspires visions of red rocks, blue sky, and golf courses. I was proud to be a Rebel before they changed the mascot to the Red Storm, and now, I’m proud to be a part of the Red Storm. Although, to me, the name evokes images of Hitler, Stalin, and Lenin, rather than a cartoon bull inside a tornado. However you envision it, it looks like St. George is soon to be home to the Dixie State University and the Red Storm.