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Dixie State University Keeps Growing

When most people think of higher education in Utah, they probably think of the University of Utah or Brigham Young University.

But in Southern Utah, a small university is rapidly growing, providing four-year degrees for more and more people.

Dixie State University was once a junior college. About 10 years ago it became a state college, and then a four-year university about four years ago.

University President Richard Williams said the school has grown seven percent or more the last two years.

He said the focus at the school is on STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) fields, along with healthcare, business and others.

"Although we're a regional comprehensive university, we have great arts programs, great humanities programs, a great education program," he said. "Instead of being a mile wide and an inch deep, we're going to be a mile wide and three miles deep."

Williams said the focus for the university is offering programs that train people for jobs available in the St. George area. He said they're able to do that because, unlike older universities with antiquated programs, Dixie State doesn't have a lot of older programs it needs to eliminate.

"We are so lean and nimble that we are just adding programs as we see the demand," he said.

The university continues to be an inexpensive option for many college students. Williams said Dixie State is the most affordable four-year education in the state of Utah, and possibly one of the most affordable in the country.

The name of the school has come under scrutiny lately. Some faculty has called for a new name because of how the term "Dixie" is connected to the southern states that seceded during the Civil War. 

Williams defended the name. He said the school thought about changing it but, overwhelmingly, the community wanted to keep the name because they connect it with Mormon settlers from the South who named Southern Utah "Utah's Dixie" more than a hundred years ago.

"It's not racially driven. It's a term of endearment," Williams explained.



Richard Williams, president, Dixie State University

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)