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Augustana Most Influential College in South Dakota, Says

Uh oh—I feel another Hobo Day Riot coming on....

For those of you who believe everything you read on the Internet, says the most influential college in South Dakota is... Augustana College.

In other states, Noodle picks the predictable public behemoths as the most influential: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; University of Texas, Austin. But in South Dakota, two state campuses each posting headcounts over 10,000 and together cranking out over 4,200 degrees a year evidently exert less influence than one private campus fielding 1,800 students and graduating fewer than 400 a year.

Do these ratings stand up as well as a wet version of that website? says it calculates influence based on these four factors:

  1. Search engine popularity
  2. Twitter authority
  3. Number of affiliated Nobel Prize winners
  4. US News rank

That's all we get, so we can't replicate's data noodling perfectly. It's mostly Google-happy proxy talk, with the exception of Nobel Prize winners. On that front, if we're talking South Dakota natives, Ernest Lawrence, the inventor of the cyclotron, got his undergraduate degree from the University of South Dakota. Economist Theodore Schultz graduated from SDSU.

If we are talking about determining the influence of colleges within their own states, we perhaps do better to work from our own knowledge of where our leaders come from. USD provides a lion's share of our political leaders; Augustana College has yet to produce a U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, or Governor for South Dakota (although Susan Wismer is trying to change that).

If we're talking about industry, SDSU's agriculture and engineering grads surely give USD business grads and School of Mines engineers runs for their money in every local Chamber of Commerce.

Of course, if we're talking economic development, Northern State University, as the employer of Joop Bollen, gets all of the credit for bringing $600 million and over 5,000 jobs to South Dakota through EB-5 investment. Go Wolves!

If we're talking about future leaders, consider that SDSU produced the most teacher education graduates this year, 145. Black Hills State produced 143 teachers; USD, 104. The College Board tells me 11% of Augie's grads come out with teaching degrees, suggesting about 40 new teachers a year.

But how does one really measure the influence of any given institution? Readers, alumni, professors and campus partisans, I open the question for your evening noodling: which campuses wield the most influence in South Dakota?


  1. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.09.24

    Go Augie! Of course it's the most influential school. After all, it's Lutheran!

  2. Don Coyote 2014.09.24

    You forgot SDSU graduate Stephen F Briggs who built a 6 cylinder, 2 stroke engine (now that's an engine that should get up and jump) in his senior year. He then went on and founded Briggs and Stratton Engines as well as Outdoor Marine Corp (think Evinrude and Johnson boat engines). His legacy lives on at SDSU with the yearly award of 4 year, $26,000 scholarships to 12 freshmen. A hearty thank you to the Briggs Foundation for my daughter's loan free BS degree.

    Oh well, my alma mater, the University of Chicago, didn't fare so well either getting beat out by Northwestern even though UC beats NW in US News rankings (4 vs 13) and in Nobel laureates (89 to 9). and let's not forget that the atom was split under the bleachers at Stagg Field and UC runs the Argonne Nationa Laboratory. I suppose search engines and "twitter authority" (whatever that is) trumps real academics any day. I can hear a collective "so what" emanating from the school whose unofficial student motto is "where fun goes to die".

    Go Maroons!

  3. Heloise 2014.09.24

    Dang Lutherans - always getting all the glory.

  4. Rorschach 2014.09.24

    Hmmm. The Hobo Day Riot. That brings back memories. Friday night. Several keggers. People milling around the street. Started jumping on someone's old car. Then flipped it upside down. Then set it on fire - before a tow truck got pelted with beer bottles dragging the car away on its roof. A bonfire was going in the middle of the street by that time fueled by whatever was available. Then roving bands of drunk students started pulling down light poles and causing other damage. I had to get out of Brookings for the pheasant opener on Saturday though. Probably a good thing I left after Friday.

  5. Winston 2014.09.25

    Well, USD has Lawrence, SDSU has a lawnmower engine, and Augie has a Mary Hart…. Your Honor, I rest my case…..

  6. Paul Seamans 2014.09.25

    Artist Harvey Dunn attended SDSU in 1901-1902. Harvey's paintings have probably brought more joy to people than some old cyclotron.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.25

    Hey, I dig cyclotrons! :-)

    But Paul, I like your mention of Harvey Dunn. It would be complex, but we could make a case that "influence" should somehow include the "joy" brought to society by graduates.

    Harvey Dunn is on Wikipedia's list of notable SDSU alumni. 30 people make that list. USD boosters have apparently worked Wikipedia harder, writing up a whole separate page for illustrious Yotes, currently totaling 54. Augustana's Wikipedia page lists 20 big names, including Myron Floren and Fred Ward (of Tremors! Yeah!).

  8. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.09.26

    Harvey Dunn's paintings are stunning. Look at them closely. There is so much paint! Blues and greens in faces.

    Compare his "Prairie is My Garden" to anything Terry Redlin or Thomas Kincaid ever did. Dunn creates art. Those guys paint kitsch to sell. No comparison. I love Dunn's work.

  9. HeatherS 2014.09.26

    Just because Augie is a small college doesn't mean they aren't the most influential. And how can you compare number of teachers out of public colleges to Augie??
    Go Augie!!

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