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July 27, 2020
This paid piece is sponsored by Dakota State University.
When Martinson Ofori, a Ph.D. information systems student, was selecting a school to complete his technical education, choosing Dakota State University was a “no-brainer.”
“DSU is well known for its contribution to advancing technology, especially in the domains of decision support, health informatics and cybersecurity,” Ofori said.
Before attending DSU, Ofori earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2014 from Garden City University College in Ghana, West Africa. He went on to earn an MBA in finance in 2018 from the University of Ghana. During that time, he also worked as a software developer and solutions architect in the banking and telecom industries.
Ofori began attending DSU as a graduate student, earning his master’s degree in computer science in December 2019. As he continues his education in the Ph.D. program and works toward a graduation date of spring 2021, Ofori is thankful for the knowledge he has gained so far.
“I have gained technical and soft skills required to take raw data, documents, personal knowledge and even business models and convert them into ideas that can inform personal and business decisions with accuracy and clarity,” he said.
The research Ofori is completing in his Ph.D. program focuses on two areas: the use of analytics in agriculture and designing persuasive systems to induce behavior change. He works with his adviser, Dr. Omar El-Gayar, to complete and publish this research.
“We have a great working relationship, and I consider him a great mentor,” Ofori said. “I believe that he has made a big, positive impact on me, and being his student is possibly the single greatest thing to have happened in my academic life.”
With three doctoral and seven master’s programs to choose from, many students like Ofori are applying and enrolling in the highly competitive graduate programs, which accept 25 percent to 30 percent of applicants on a yearly basis.
“Our programs are right up there with some of the top in the nation,” said Mark Hawkes, dean of graduate studies at DSU. “They’re embedded with innovation and technology. Their popularity is not just in the state but around the country and the world.”
That popularity is attributed to students choosing a path that best fits their career aspirations, as well as the programs being significantly more affordable and holding an outstanding placement rate of 100 percent.
All programs offer students opportunities to challenge their ways of thinking, become a leader in their field and further their career. With those catalysts in mind, the school has become a perfect contender for students seeking higher-level degrees.
It also offers the ability for students to earn their degree while maintaining their professional career.
“Many employers also offer tuition reimbursement, which is an even greater incentive for students to pursue a higher degree. The fact that you can complete your master’s or doctorate while you’re working is an exceptional option for students,” Hawkes said.
“What helps even more is the fact that our classes and programs are strongly aligned with our expertise as an institution.”
That expertise correlates to Dakota State’s well-known cyber programs, in addition to business and education:
Once enrolled, students embark on a class rotation schedule that meets their degree’s completion time line, which is usually from two to four years.
As for the classes themselves, students are guaranteed ones that are nothing less than rigorous and challenging, giving them valuable skills and a market-ready edge in the professional world.
“When you’re seeking the highest degree in the field, it’s going to be tough,” Hawkes said. “It will take a lot of energy and effort. You’re expected to invent and innovate, move the discipline forward. So that’s our goal: to create good researchers, big contributors and develop the knowledge we have in that field.”
Students also have access to faculty advisers and mentorships to guide them through their schooling. Advisers and mentors collaborate with students on research or advise their research work. Some of these relationships even turn into co-authorships on writing, research, conference presentations and more.
Many graduates are employed full time while continuing their education, which often requires them to execute professional, personal and educational duties simultaneously.
“These challenges often make talking over course and program options with an adviser very useful and helpful to students,” said Jack Walters, professor of management and coordinator of the MBA program.
As coordinator of the MBA program and academic adviser for all MBA students, Walters assists them by providing frequent updates about program information, working with students to understand the implications of course and program choices and being constantly available to answer questions and help solve problems.
Advisers and mentors can help students enrolling in programs make decisions like whether to attend part or full time. A unique aspect of master of science programs at DSU is that they allow students to take one, two or three courses a semester.
Students who attend school full time have the opportunity to apply for graduate assistantships while completing their degrees. Graduate assistantships offer students stipends and allow them to pay reduced tuition. Dakota State offers three different types of assistantships:
Recipients of the assistantships must work part time – up to 19.5 hours per week – at DSU, maintain a 3.25 GPA and be a regular/admitted full-time student. Assistantships are highly competitive and awarded to a limited number of students on a yearly basis.
“Our programs are right up there with some of the top in the nation. They’re embedded with innovation and technology.” These sought-after graduate programs are drawing national interest.