• Agriculture
  • Education


  • Strategy and Planning
  • Audience Engagement

Paulsen helped South Dakota State University's Dairy Production Program grow in both reputation and student enrollment.

Stay Competitive. Stay Relevant. This Is the Way.

For university programs, staying both competitive and relevant is a “do or die” situation. Lose the competitive edge and enrollment plummets. Lack relevancy and the program fails to turn out the next generation of industry leaders. Both have devastating effects not only on the program, but for the university as a whole.

While South Dakota State University's Dairy Production Program has carved out a distinctive reputation as one of the top dairy manufacturing programs nationwide, the university wanted to continue to grow in both reputation and student enrollment. So they turned to Paulsen to help them ensure the program remained top-notch to both recruit highly qualified students and that industry organizations would look to SDSU for outstanding new employees that could continue to meet the needs of the changing dairy industry. This growth in reputation would also mean SDSU would become a hub for sponsored research and receive increased funding.


Get to Know Them

The very best way to understand a group of people is to get on ground level with them. So in order to find out what potential students and dairy companies were looking for from a university dairy program, we talked to current students and dairy industry leaders. Using qualitative telephone interviews with industry leaders and online surveys with students, alumni, faculty and producers, Paulsen discovered three key insights.

  1. SDSU Dairy Production Program graduates must understand how to achieve a profit in tomorrow’s evolving and volatile dairy market. This requires an emphasis on dairy economics, both from a production and manufacturing perspective. Graduates also need to understand how regulatory forces and consumer demand will impact their industry. Food safety, with a focus on sustainability, transparency and verification, will drive virtually all decisions for dairy operations, as well as dairy manufacturers.

  2. In order to properly serve regional dairy producers and manufacturers, the program will need to answer distinct research questions. For example, there had been little research to guide dairy producers as to the most cost-efficient, environmentally sustainable way to operate 1,000-plus herds—especially as it relates to automation, nutrition and cow comfort.

    For manufacturers, more research is needed in food innovation with a goal to create more demand for Class III and Class IV dairy products. Dairy producers and manufacturers will need to adopt best practices for food safety, sustainability, transparency and verification. Addressing questions like this one would put SDSU in the forefront of dairy industry expertise.

  3. The SDSU Dairy Production Program can create tomorrow’s industry leaders that are problem-solving, critical thinkers with an entrepreneurial spirit by focusing and communicating its successes in addressing the key challenges facing the dairy industry in a way that other universities cannot.


Becoming a National Dairy Industry Authority

South Dakota State University consistently ranks in the top 10 best dairy science programs in the nation with one of the smallest price tags.

SDSU Dairy Production Program has begun changing the curriculum and program tracts to best match students’ and industry leaders’ desires.