Based in the city of Vermillion, the University of South Dakota is the oldest of the six public institutions now overseen by the state’s Board of Regents, who are appointed directly by the governor. It was not until 1889 that Dakota Territory was divided in two to form the new states of North and South Dakota, but the institution’s origins go back to 1862, when the Territory’s first legislature decided on the creation of a university. The plans, however, came without the funds to make them possible, so it was only in 1882 that classes actually began in a courthouse with the support of the private University of Dakota.
By end of the following year, when there were still only 69 students, a public board had taken over the governance role and a College of Arts & Sciences had been set up. Growth soon proceeded rapidly. There were already 500 students when South Dakota became the 40th state of the union in 1889. And the early 20th century saw a steady development of disciplinary coverage, with the opening of schools of law (1901); medicine (1907), still the only one in the state; continuing education (1916); graduate studies (1927); and fine art (1931).
Now the state’s flagship institution, USD describes itself as a “big-time university with a small-college feel”. The attractive 274-acre campus above the Missouri River incorporates a number of striking 19th-century buildings such as the former women’s dormitories which now houses the administrative facilities for the social sciences. Also notable are the National Music Museum, the Native American Cultural Centre, the new home for the Beacon School of Business, completed in 2009, and a dramatic Wellness Centre for fitness and sport, which opened in 2011.