Abbott: Partnership of university, city is key to future success

Abbott: Partnership of university, city is key to future success by David Lias Success at The University of South Dakota will include improvements in both the institution's academics and in its building infrastructure.

That was just part of the message delivered by USD President James Abbott at Saturday night's Vermillion Development Company/Vermillion Chamber of Commerce banquet held at the Buffalo Run Winery.

Abbott noted that the university's future depends not only on actions taken by the administration and faculty of the learning institution, but it also depends on steps that Vermillion citizens take in the future to hopefully make the city a better place to live.

"The freshman English and math programs have been strengthened," he said. "We are in the process of creating a comprehensive freshman orientation program beginning at the time of acceptance and continuing throughout the freshman year.

"The IDEA program, a interdisciplinary approach to learning, begins this fall," Abbott added. "Finally, and most significantly in my view, we will begin this semester a university-wide comprehensive review of each college, school, department and program."

Abbott said the university must be strengthened significantly to serve students' future needs.

"What can we as a community, and a university, do? It seems to me we can band together as the citizenry did in the late 1880s as it strived to create both a better university and a better community," Abbott said. "I hope I don't insult anyone when I say that, to many students, Vermillion seems less than compelling particularly when compared to Lincoln, Minneapolis or Iowa City."

Many students, Abbott said, wish to pursue their education in an urban area. Vermillion citizens can't transform their community into an large urban center, "but we can do more to make the university and Vermillion more attractive, and as a city, in my opinion, we need to take a much more proactive approach."

He urged everyone attending Saturday's banquet to take a closer look at Vermillion while driving or walking through the city.

"Some of the housing around the university and in this community appears to be substandard," Abbott said. "I notice numerous abandoned vehicles in yards not to mention unoccupied houses with broken windows. Certainly there are, or should be, ordinances that prevent blight of this nature."

He also urged city leaders to chart a course for the city's future.

"I would urge all of you as municipal leaders to determine what the city should be," Abbott said. "What is it that city needs to do to make itself more attractive to potential residents. I am distressed by the number of faculty who choose not to live here. Its bothersome to me.

"Many of them choose to drive back and forth from Sioux Falls," he added. "Yet when I ask them about that, I'm constantly told that a supply of new housing is simply not in evidence. Perhaps then as a city we must decide where growth should be and direct it, through an expansion of sewer and water and paved roads, where we want it to be."

Abbott said he hopes community leaders continue to think ahead, and envision what they would like Vermillion to be.

"I don't intend to try and tell each and every one of what our goals should be as a community," he said, "but I do hope that each and every one will think, as citizens of the community, what you wish the community to be and join us at the university so that together, we make Vermillion the town that it should be, and the university the university that it should be."

John Paulson, the president of the Vermillion Development Company board of directors, told the banquet audience that the VDC has made exciting plans for 2001.

"The theme that we have adopted for the year is Partnership, Communication and Vision," he said. "To begin the year, we're going to work on a partnership with the university and the Chamber to go out and visit our legislators and their fellow members of the state Legislature."

Paulson said the VDC also will make an effort to form relationships with surrounding communities.

"Our partnership this year will include the work that involves the city, the county, the chamber, the school district and the university. We also want to reach out to the communities around us, particularly to our friends in Nebraska, and we also look forward to new partnerships that will form with other businesses that we hope will relocate in the community who have the same interest of improving the quality of life here as all of you do," he said.

The VDC's goals for the year include business recruitment, housing, the Newcastle/Vermillion bridge, community information, leadership and development of business parks.

Paulson said 10 years ago, a bridge, a new hospital, a golf course, housing development and new business development were part of Vermillion's vision.

"All of you were part of that vision, and it is now within your grasp," he said. "The Vermillion Development Company pledges to do its part to by having a vision that is just as far-reaching, just as bold and just as successful as the one that has been achieved."

"We do realize that the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce is definitely a promoting hand of Vermillion, and they are involved with many, many events," said Curt Schempp, the president of the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. "We want to start working on the idea that we are goal-driven and not events-driven. You're going to see us definitely participating in several programs."

The Chamber's main goals for this year include improving the image of the Vermillion area, promoting retail growth and development, and enacting funding and incentive programs.

"Be supportive of the Chamber when we ask you for help," Schempp said. "As your Chamber, we will be taking on some grand things. We are planning for tomorrow constantly."

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