Faculty and Staff

Five department heads representing 137 years of service to SDSU have closed their academic careers. The following takes a brief look at their careers. A longer story on them can be found on the SDSU news link: https://www.sdstate.edu/news. These articles were written especially for this edition by University Marketing and Communications.


Laurie Haleta, Department of Communication Studies and Theatre

Falling in the Pugsley Center hallway May 29, 2016, left Laurie Haleta with a broken left kneecap. The eight weeks of immobilization that was required for recovery left time to think and enjoy life.

Not that she was crazy about being unable to bend her leg and living a confined life at her rural Bruce home, but she did enjoy the time to rest, relax and think. One of the things she thought about was retirement and being able to help more at home, so the department head retired Dec. 21, 2016, after 28 years of full-time service.

Add in years as a graduate assistant and adjunct faculty member in the Department of Communication Studies and Theatre, and her years of service grows to 36.

While the knee has fully recovered, “It’s time for a rest,” said Haleta, who discovered this summer how good it feels to not be on the go all the time.

Her SDSU connection began in 1973 when the Flandreau High School graduate enrolled as a nursing major. It wasn’t human anatomy that caused Haleta to change her major, but rather a 7:30 a.m. Speech 101 class. “It was such a wonderful experience. Literally and figuratively, I found my voice,” she said.

Haleta credits her teacher, Harold Widvey. “He was a wonderful instructor. He was a supporter, he was encouraging, clearly devoted to his students. I really felt I might have a gift for this.”

So did her academic advisor, Wayne Hoogstraat, who encouraged her to get her master’s degree. Haleta did so in 1983. That fall she began teaching as a part-time instructor on a temporary contract. In 1988, she was hired as an assistant professor on a tenure track with her primary duty coordinating the Speech 101 classes.

Much has changed about SDSU and its students in Haleta’s 3 ½ decades here, but the fear of public speaking remains constant.

However, what has changed is the way the department handles glossophobia. “I’m really proud of how we’ve evolved. We’ve been able to take a lot of the research out there and educate our staff on how to recognize it and treat it. The speech center was created three years ago.

“Students can present speeches to Speech 101 staff. We can record their speech and offer feedback” before students are graded, she said.

Having been head of the Department of Communication Studies and Theatre for 14 years, she also then became interim head of the Department of Modern Languages and Global Studies, in 2014.

At this point, her job was strictly administrative. For a few months in spring 2014, Haleta also was interim head of the Department of History, Political Science, Philosophy and Religion. “When I went back to having two departments, I felt like I had a lot of time on my hands!” But with a combined 23 faculty members, 11 graduate teaching assistants and seven programs, she still had plenty of work.

Her tenure in the communication studies and theatre department is evidenced by the fact that she has hired all but one of the faculty members. That exception is J.D. Ackman, who joined the faculty in 1993.

Joshua Westwick, another SDSU graduate who transitioned to the faculty, replaced Haleta as Speech 101 coordinator and is the interim department head. Christi Garst-Santos is the interim department head for modern languages and global studies.

Haleta’s also glad to be at home full time without being incapacitated. Her husband, Al, a construction contractor, has already retired.


Mary Arnold, Department of journalism and Mass Communication

Mary Arnold began and ended her journalism career in South Dakota, but between those bookends spent a couple of decades elsewhere. She wrote for the Mitchell Daily Republic while studying at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell and then spent four years (1973-77) as a reporter for the Vermillion Plain Talk after getting her master’s degree in English from the University of South Dakota.

After moving to Iowa, she taught high school journalism for years. She then served as director of the Iowa High School Press Association for 10 years (1986-1996) and earned a doctorate in mass communication at the University of Iowa. Her next move took her to the Newspaper Association of America Foundation in Washington, D.C., where Arnold managed high school journalism and youth outreach programs.

She then moved to the journalism department at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She taught journalism classes and directed a high school journalism workshop for two years.

“While I was in Muncie, I also started doing consultant work writing books for the Media Management Center at Northwestern University,” Arnold said. “I led a team that wrote a series of four books on women employed at top levels of management in news organizations.

“I had agreed to do the fourth book when I heard Dick Lee (the longtime SDSU journalism department head) was retiring,” she said. “We finished that book during my first year here.”

Arnold was familiar with the program because she had met Lee at national journalism conventions. She had also worked with faculty members Lyle Olson and Doris Giago through national journalism organizations. She became their boss when she was hired as department head Aug. 1, 2002.

But what really attracted her to SDSU was its top administrators—President Peggy Miller and Carol Peterson, vice president for academic affairs. “They saw the value of a diverse workforce. They said they would support me and my work. It was very refreshing compared to” other positions, where Arnold said being a female was viewed as a liability.

“I figured I would be here for a few years and move on,” but even now at age 69 she is only moving aside. Arnold plans to stay in Brookings and, after a break, work part time in communications and marketing.

A key to extending her stay at SDSU was the camaraderie she developed with other female department heads—April Brooks in history and political science, Kathleen Donovan in English, Laurie Haleta in communication studies and theater, Teresa Hall in construction management and Eluned Jones in economics.

Arnold recalls the support she received from them when she went through a series of family tribulations—a sister with multiple sclerosis died in 2007, her mother died in 2008 and another sister died from cancer a few years later.

“We women department heads took care of one another. And we still do—even if it is to take one another to the emergency room after a fall,” she said, recalling a couple of incidents in the past few years. “My peer group is a big part of the reason why I stayed, plus I like our students’ enthusiasm and their work ethic. The students here aren’t afraid to work.”

In addition to serving as journalism department head, since 2012 one-quarter of her duties has been as assistant to the dean of the College of Arts and Science for marketing and communications. She may continue with that in retirement and definitely plans to continue to write, possibly doing public relations for a nonprofit.

Immediate plans call for a road trip to the national parks in the Western United States. “I want to explore the natural beauty and see more than the convention centers and restaurants I saw when I traveled a lot in my earlier jobs.”

There also will be time with her family—a son, Mark, a graphic designer in Iowa City; and a daughter, Ellen, a graphic designer for the Government Accounting Office in Washington, D.C.


Joel Rauber, Department of Physics

Joel Rauber needs no explanation of Newton’s Laws of Motion and on June 21 the South Dakota State University physics professor began demonstrating the first of Newton’s laws.

That’s the one about objects at rest remaining at rest unless an equal or greater force acts against it. Rauber removed from the equation the force that is produced by a clanging alarm clock. The department head retired from SDSU after 32 years at the only school where he has ever taught. He has been department head since 2008.

SDSU might not have been the place where one would have expected Rauber to land, but another law of physics was at work.

“In a field like physics, you choose your discipline, not your geographic location,” said Rauber, who grew up in Decatur, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, and skipped his senior year in high school to enroll at Emory University in Atlanta. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1978 and then a doctorate in the field from the University of North Carolina in 1985.

He went directly from Chapel Hill to the College on the Hill, where he was hired by Gerald Tunheim as the 11th member of the SDSU physics faculty.

As for classroom content, well, the apple still falls from the tree. Gravity and other laws of physics are as constant as they were when Newton discovered them in the 17th century.

“Physics is a very mature discipline. The content is pretty similar to what it was when I was in school. This is in contrast to life sciences. In physics, there has not been textbook-erasing change because the fundamentals are still the same. What is being taught at beginning levels hasn’t changed much,” Rauber said.

The next department leader—on an interim basis—will be professor Yung Huh, who has been in the department since 2002.

For Rauber, who had heart surgeries in 2002 and 2014, retirement will mean relaxation, travel and hiking. Now 59, Rauber has a goal of completing a “thru-hike” of the 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail. That means covering the entire trail in one trip. He has twice completed the trail in multiyear sections and now is working on his third time.

Last year, he walked 189 miles of West Virginia in 13 days with his nephew. Faculty meetings won’t crowd his schedule this year.

However, he does have a family to return home to. His wife, Maria Ramos, is on the modern languages and global studies faculty. They have a daughter Anna, who is a 15-year-old sophomore.


Bradley Woldt, Department of Psychology

Somewhere along the road to school and work, Brad Woldt “ran into life” and it shaped who he would become—a psychology professor.

Woldt grew up in the city of Watertown, but because of his father’s occupation, he has a connection to agriculture. Dwaine Woldt and his brother, Carroll, started Woldt Brothers Turkey Farm right outside Watertown in 1967. Brad Woldt graduated from Watertown High School in 1970 and enrolled at South Dakota State that fall.

He switched majors two or three times, but had taken an interest in immunology in his junior year in 1974, when his father asked him to return home to work on the farm.

Woldt did so, and in 1980, he and his brother purchased the farm from his father, who had previously bought out his brother and renamed the operation Pepper Farms Inc. The business also had interests in a feed mill and a cattle-feeding operation. He served as president and co-owner until selling out to his brother in 1987 to pursue psychology. It wasn’t the birds or the cattle that moved him to that field.

“I realized there were a lot of things that I didn’t understand about why people behaved the way they did,” Woldt explained.

In addition to experiencing the trials and tribulations of life, Woldt said he wanted to finish his degree. “I felt unfinished. I wanted to complete my undergraduate education so I commuted from Watertown.”

To fulfill a general education requirement, he took a psychology 101 class from Bob Burke “and I was hooked. From my life experiences, I wanted to explore psychology. I was interested in individual and family dysfunction,” Woldt said. “After I took the Burke class, I just said, ‘Oh, this is it.’” He had found his chosen field.

In addition to Burke, Woldt said he was influenced by faculty members Al Branum and Ken Hillner. “They were all great and were very encouraging to me. Those three guys were fantastic,” said Woldt, who graduated with honors and a degree in psychology in 1988.

He followed that right up with graduate school, earning his master’s and doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Montana in 1991 and 1993, respectively. It was there he got a taste of instruction, assisting in teaching a graduate-level psychology testing course and teaching a statistics class for behavioral sciences.

Meanwhile back in Brookings, Branum and Hillner had kept an eye on their former student.

By this time, Branum was assistant dean of the College of Arts and Science and Hillner was head of the psychology department. “They said, ‘When you’re done, we’re interested in having you come back.’”

In spring 1995, Woldt had just become licensed and was working as an adolescent program director at Sexually Abusive Behavior: Evaluation and Recovery in Missoula, Montana. Hillner let him know of a job opening at SDSU. Woldt was the successful applicant and began work at State Aug. 15, 1995.

In addition to teaching clinical courses, Woldt maintained a one-day-a-week private practice until becoming department head in 2009.

South Dakota Board of Regents approved emeritus distinction at its March meeting.

Woldt, who turned 65 June 24—just after his last day at State—is thinking about a third career, possibly working for his son, Brian, a certified public accountant in Castle Rock, Colorado, who has a need for a bookkeeper. Woldt also has a daughter, Kristi Laffen, a medical review examiner in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Brian and Kelly Woldt have four children. Kristi and Nick Laffen have one child.


Tim Steele, School of Design

Computers? In an art department? That idea was preposterous to university administration in 1990 when the purchase was planned.

That’s part of the change Tim Steele, head of the School of Design at South Dakota State University, experienced in his 32 years here.

Today, graphic design students couldn’t operate without their Macintosh. It is as much of a tool in the liberal arts as it is in the hard sciences. The term “digital artwork” was a sophisticated way of saying “finger painting” when Steele was studying fine arts at Fort Wright College of the Holy Name in Spokane, Washington, in the late 1970s.

He exited his final year of college teaching as the one who created a modern graphic design program at South Dakota State.

In 1985, Steele became the first person to be hired by the late Norman Gambill, who had become head of the Department of Visual Arts a year earlier. “Norman had a lot of expertise, but he was not as confident in graphic design. I was hired to start the graphic design program, and I had Norm’s blessing to take the program where it went,” Steele said.

“He was a huge influence on me. It was liberating in the way I could think or could be. I wasn’t required to be one way or the other,” he said.

When Steele went to deliver his first lecture to graphic design students, there was a group of eight. The next day there were six. Fortunately, there was no more attrition that semester. In 1986, Steele wrote the curriculum for a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts degree in art with an emphasis in graphic design.

“At that time, all design classes were taught in the journalism department in the printing program, and we had one art class. All of the graphic designers were headed to print shops,” Steele recalls.

But the transition to a design-oriented program began with Steele’s arrival. By 1995, a decade after Steele’s arrival, “We were easily the largest group of students in the art department” with 60 majors out of 90 total majors in the department. Another decade later, 2004, graphic design was its own major. There are now 140 graphic design majors.

Steele said the first Mac came out in 1985 and the process began to transfer graphic design from a hand-and-eye skill to computerization.

By 1990, the department hired a second graphic design instructor and the department had eight or nine Mac SEs. “Journalism was doing the same thing. The university could not believe we needed computers in the art department. At this point, we quit using the Compugraphic.”

The next step was the addition of 10 Dell computers, which were so prized that two students from outside the department gained access to Grove Hall through the campus steam tunnel and stole two of them, box and all. When the school year closed, the empty boxes were found outside their apartment and the burglars were convicted.

When the next Macintosh version was released, the art department was on the buyer’s list, and it has continually upgraded with Macs, Steele said.

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