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CommUniversity History

Now in its fourth decade of almost annual programs, Dickinson CommUniversity began in 1980 under the leadership of Rev. Pete Hinrichs of St. John Lutheran Church and Ozzie Belsheim, DSU Professor of Music. That year, grants from the North Dakota Humanities Council brought well-known historian Dr. Hiram Drache from Concordia College to campus for the keynote address, and local faculty and community members presented mini-courses on topics of interest to the general public. After a few years, leadership of the program shifted to the Teacher Education Department, primarily falling on the shoulders of Travis Haakedahl until his untimely death in the mid-1990s. Since that time, leadership of CommUniversity passed to Dr. Carl Larson and then to Dr. David Solheim, both of DSU’s Department of Language and Literature. Since CommUniversity 2013, Dr. Peter Grimes of the same department has coordinated the efforts.  

Dickinson CommUniversity has continued financial cooperation to this day with regular, partial funding from the NDHC and significant donations from local businesses and participants to fund the presentations. CommUniversity also promotes interaction between the “town and gown” as it features instructors and audience participation from both sides of this proverbial dichotomy. CommUniversity is dedicated to lifelong learning and hopes to attract a wide range of participants through its continuing motto of “No homework and no exams.” While humanities courses in history, literature, music, and international culture have formed most of the content, in recent years there have been increased numbers of courses in applied and natural sciences including astronomy, geology, agriculture, genealogy, and computer science. Courses are typically held on weekends in February.


Donate Today

CommUniversity is a self-funded activity which often receives a small grant from the North Dakota Humanities Council, and support services and facility use from Dickinson State University. For most courses there is a $15 registration fee that helps cover the costs of instruction. In addition CU receives sponsoring and partnering support ($100 and $250 donations) from many organizations in the Dickinson community. In return for the donation, sponsors and partners receive recognition in brochures and posters distributed in the community. All employees or members of sponsoring and partnering organizations are allowed to attend the CommUniversity courses free of charge. Those wishing to make early donations may send them to Dr. Peter Grimes in DSU’s Department of Language & Literature or to the DSU Business Affairs Office. Please mark any checks or correspondence as being for CommUniversity.


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