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First-ever Knowlton Award granted to transportation project

August 20, 2018

Getting from Point A to Point B can be a major issue for many college students.

Staff in the International Programs office saw that need in 2017 and worked out a solution called Trojan Transit. Any college students who need a ride to the grocery store or to class can call East Dakota Transit, and the public bus service in Madison will provide them with free transportation service. Student Senate provides funding for the free rides.

Because Trojan Transit improved the campus environment, Nicole Claussen and Amber Alfson submitted the program for consideration as a Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) project. Claussen is the Director of International Programs at DSU, and Alfson is senior secretary in that department.

CQI is a business management philosophy and a technique that perpetually evaluates processes in an organization, said Dr. Jeff Howard, a CQI committee member at DSU, and associate professor of game design and development. “As we evaluate these processes, we try to find ways to make them better,” he said.

“The best thing about CQI,” Howard noted, “is that it empowers everybody at every level of the organization, because workers within the organization are the best ones to know what is working well and what processes could be improved.”

The CQI committee decided during the spring of 2018 to initiate an annual campus award for the best project. It is named the Doug Knowlton Excellence in Quality Award, after the former DSU president who was a leader in implementing the CQI program at Dakota State in 2010.

For this first-ever Knowlton Award, the committee considered projects submitted from 2016 through the summer of 2018. Of the 32 projects, Trojan Transit was named the top project at an all-campus meeting on August 13. CQI committee member Carrie Slaathaug commented on the most noteworthy aspect of the project, saying that while Claussen and Alfson saw the need with their international students, Trojan Transit is open to all students on campus. Slaathaug is annual fund phonathon manager with University Advancement.

“We’re really thrilled that DSU has included us in this project,” said Scott Finck, transit manager at Interlakes Community Action Partnership (ICAP) in Madison, the non-profit organization which operates East Dakota Transit.

Finck added that ICAP would like to get even more riders from DSU, and the Madison community as well. He pointed out that East Dakota has wheelchair ramps and can provide service those who are disabled, so “we’re here to provide service for anyone in Madison.”

Students or community members may contact ICAP at 605-256-5810. Rides are free for students, with their student ID.   

Other top CQI projects were submitted by the College of Education, including “Realm of Dragons,” which used gamification to transform how students experience their education, and a Lunch and Learn project to offer students an opportunity to ask questions outside of class.

Each project will receive a plaque and a CQI button to display in the office, “to show you care about what’s going on here at DSU and take the time to make it better,” said Slaathaug.