The notion of Dixie State University being a “party school” is no longer based on facts but rather outdated opinions still prevalent among students, staff and faculty members alike.
Students from other institutions in Utah consider DSU a transition school — a place where people go to complete their general education, save up money, and move on to finish their undergraduate work elsewhere.
“I have always thought of Dixie State as a transitional college … never really thought of it as a major school,” said James Salmon, a junior mechanical engineering major at Brigham Young University.
Megan Burnett, a recent graduate of University of Utah, said her friends who attended DSU always intended to eventually transfer to a different school.
“People just party a lot and don’t take education seriously,” Burnett said.
Douglas Sainsbury, the program adviser for the biology department, and Martina Gaspari, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, said they were not surprised to hear such remarks from other students. Both have confirmed DSU had a reputation of being a party school and stressed how important it is to move on from that mindset, for DSU has moved on a long time ago.
“In the past 15 years, we’ve gone from a two-year junior college to now a full-fledged university … from offering no bachelor’s degrees to offering over 30 bachelor’s degrees,” Sainsbury said.
Even DSU’s students have changed over the years. Smaller class sizes have allowed faculty members to individualize their teaching approaches and interact with students on a more personal level. A larger number of students are engaging in independent research under close supervision of their professors with every passing year. Such practices produce stronger recommendation letters and give DSU students a wider range of experiences they can discuss in their personal statements.
“I don’t see a reason why [DSU] should not be taken seriously … [My students] are very dedicated,” Gaspari said. “They have excellent goals. They want to go to medical schools, dental schools (and) graduate schools.”
Though DSU is not an R-1 institution, a status given to universities that engage in extensive research, it is continuously increasing its funding for research with more students writing up bills and professors working on requesting grants. A gradual change is appropriate with a matter like this, as a sudden transition does not necessarily entail major benefits.
An R-1 status would cost our faculty members a lot of their time, which would, in turn, deprive our students of that personal relationship with professors — the very thing that makes DSU so great.
I was more motivated to attend lectures and study knowing that my professors knew my name, my strengths and my weaknesses. I worked hard to show them my appreciation of their time and to make them proud. DSU faculty are exceptionally good at redirecting one’s focus from grades to the wonderful process of learning. As a result, I never felt pressured as a student.
Moreover, education is not the only aspect of DSU that has improved over the years. Great effort put forth by our staff and community members have led to DSU students making an appearance on the “Today” show, having one of our students crowned as Miss Utah, and sending four of our students to conduct research at Stanford University.
Whether people notice or choose to ignore it, DSU is moving on and growing fast. Instead of dwelling on the past, DSU builds upon it. I choose to follow DSU’s lead as opposed to trailing in its tracks. You should too.