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General Information

Mission Statement
Dakota Wesleyan University aspires to excellence in the liberal arts and professional programs, preparing students for meaningful careers and lifelong intellectual adventure. The university affirms its relationship with the United Methodist Church and fosters diversity in an inclusive atmosphere. DWU encourages the dialogue between mind and soul, simultaneously building relationships, developing whole persons, and promoting service to God and humanity. (Approved in October 1995)

Vision Statement
Dakota Wesleyan University aspires to be a leading university that educates students to identify and develop their individual talents for successful lives in service to God and the common good.


We affirm the power of ideas, the pursuit of excellence, and a personal and collaborative approach to liberal arts education.

We challenge our students, faculty, and staff to be leaders of character who will maximize their talents for the common good.

As a faith-affirming community, we embrace John Wesley's model of uniting knowledge, reason, and vital faith in curricular and cocurricular activities.

We inspire and empower our students, faculty, and staff to use their talents to serve God and humanity.

"Sacrifice or Service"

Dakota Wesleyan University—A Proud Heritage

In 1883, a small band of Methodist settlers meeting in Dakota Territory secured a charter to establish the college that has become Dakota Wesleyan University.  These hardy pioneers were driven to “build a college of stone while living in houses of sod.”

Dakota was still a territory in 1885 when the Dakota Conference of the Methodist Church voted to establish Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell (known as Dakota University until Oct. 14, 1904).  These pioneers had deep religious convictions about the education and future of their children.  Some lived in houses of sod on the Dakota prairie as they forged ahead with their dream of building this institution of stone.

The founders of Dakota Wesleyan University envisioned an institution that epitomized the highest in Christian thought and deed, and so adopted the motto, “Sacrifice or Service.”  This is depicted in the collegiate seal of the altar, the ox and the plow – symbols for these concepts.  To this day, those associated with DWU endeavor to carry out its mission of service to God and humanity.

By 1920, Dakota Wesleyan University was the largest independent college in the state, with an enrollment of more than 300.  The Great Depression, which hit the prairie earlier, harder and longer than any region in the nation, evoked another regionally sensitive response from Dakota Wesleyan.  The university accepted many students with few or no resources.  Lacking adequate tuition revenues, the university and its personnel sacrificed their development and economic well-being in order to provide educational opportunities for students who had no other options.  Farm produce was accepted for tuition.  As part of their pay, teachers received housing in Graham Hall and coupons to purchase merchandise in town.  As in earlier days, the faculty, townspeople and parishioners of the Methodist Church pulled together to sustain the university.  An entire generation of prairie people survived the Depression and built successful lives because of the sacrifice and commitment of Dakota Wesleyan University.

Since the 1930s the university has continued to remain responsive to the special needs of its region.  Strong programs in teacher education have provided new teachers for school districts.  Nursing and allied health programs address the continuing need for healthcare professionals in rural South Dakota.  In recognition of diverse cultures and traditions in a changing prairie environment, Wesleyan has undertaken a unique and substantial commitment to special programs focusing on American Indian culture.  Additionally, the university has developed programs to assist students whose previous educational experiences have inadequately prepared them for the demands of a rapidly changing region and future.  At a time when many small colleges abandoned their historic church relationship, Dakota Wesleyan University remained true to its origins and the needs of the region.  Countless students of United Methodist, Lutheran, Roman Catholic and other denominations in this region have been enriched and strengthened by the people and programs of DWU.

Now, 127 years later, DWU is still committed to transforming the lives of students.

With about 750 students, Dakota Wesleyan University has a reputation for caring and concern toward its students.  The student-to-faculty ratio (14:1) allows our faculty to get to know each student on a personal basis, providing mentorship, guidance and professional collaboration as essential parts of the education process.  Students come from the Midwest and other locations around the United States.  DWU has also welcomed many international students, most recently from Ireland, Venezuela, Canada, United Kingdom and Kenya.

An essential aspect of a Dakota Wesleyan education is service.  Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to participate in service projects in the community and around the state.  Past projects have included serving meals at the Love Feast, an organization that provides free meals to less fortunate members of the community; building furniture for a Bosnian refugee family; working on a home for Habitat for Humanity; and collecting school supplies and books for needy children.  Groups have participated in mission trips both in the United States and other countries, including mission trips to Tanzania in 2007, 2008,  2010 and 2012, and Peru in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and Mexico in 2010.

DWU’s rich tradition of service enters the 21st century with the George and George and Eleanor McGovern Library and Center for Leadership and Public Service. The life and work of George McGovern – DWU Class of 1946 and former professor of history at DWU – and his wife, Eleanor, who passed away in 2007, epitomize this tradition of service.  The McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service creates a culture of service to the common good and provides educational programs on leadership and public service through a variety of curricular and cocurricular avenues, interwoven with many of DWU’s academic programs, including nursing, education and business.  The McGovern Library also houses the McGovern Archives.  In addition to materials related to McGovern’s noted political career, the archives are a rich source of information and inspiration for those interested in public service, the alleviation of hunger and poverty, and political activism.

Dakota Wesleyan University has many distinguished alumni.  In addition to McGovern, there have been three other United States senators, six college presidents, many United Methodist pastors, leaders of numerous corporations and award-winning teachers.  The list of DWU graduates who make a difference in the world continues to grow with each graduating class.

Blessed with gifted leadership at critical points throughout its history, Dakota Wesleyan University stands today as the pride of the prairie.  As in the early years, today’s students enjoy an environment where minds are challenged, souls are nourished, friendships are forged and lives are transformed.

The stone memorial pillars at the north end of campus are engraved with these words: “This gateway is dedicated to pioneer men and women of the middle border who sacrificed that here the torch might be relighted.”  Sacrifice or service – the cornerstone on which Dakota Wesleyan University was built – remains the foundation for its second century of educating the leaders of the future.  Situated on the prairie and founded to serve the Dakota Territory’s brave pioneers, DWU continues to inspire today’s pioneers and serve as a link between our proud heritage and the bright possibilities of the future.

Accreditation Higher Learning Commission Mark of Affiliation
Dakota Wesleyan University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association, 30 North LaSalle Street, Suite 2400, Chicago, IL 60602, (312) 263-0456, www.ncahlc.org, continuously since 1916.  DWU is a four-year coeducational college granting the degrees of Master of Arts, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts and Associate of Arts.  The university is also accredited or approved by:

  • South Dakota Department of Education
  • South Dakota Board of Nursing
  • National League for Nursing (National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission Inc., 3343 Peachtree Road NE, Suite 500, Atlanta, GA  30326)
  • United Methodist University Senate
  • Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE)

The university is approved by the state of South Dakota on the basis of the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education Certification (NASDTEC) standards.

Dakota Wesleyan University participates in the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, the National Association of United Methodist Colleges and Universities, the South Dakota Association of Private Colleges, and the Council of Independent Colleges.

The foregoing representations concerning accreditation and approvals are based upon the university’s standing with the accrediting or approving bodies at the time of the printing of this catalog.  Accreditation and approvals are subject to review and may change from time to time.  A student may obtain from the provost's office a review or copy of any documents describing the accreditation approval, certification or licensing of the institution.


Dakota Wesleyan University
1200 W. University Ave
Mitchell, SD 57301
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Last updated: 12/21/12