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Customer profile: University of South Dakota, US - Patrick John Morrison

Customer profile: University of South Dakota, US - Patrick John Morrison
  • The University of South Dakota is one of the smallest flagship universities in the US, with around 10,000 students, with 400 international students. 
  • USD became's partner in 2020, with the goal of attracting more genuine and suitable applicants.
  • Got a great intake of 200 new international students – almost double of 109 last year.
  • Secured high-quality thoroughly vetted student applications and boosted its “volume-to-quality ratio”.

Located in Vermillion, South Dakota, on the bluffs of the Missouri River, the University of South Dakota (USD) is one of the smallest flagship universities in the US, with around 10,000 students, including 400 international students. 

Patrick John Morrison, Interim Director of USD’s Gallagher International Center, says international students are attracted to USD for its quality teaching and affordability, as well as its sense of community and safety. 


Patrick John Morrison, Interim Director at USD’s Gallagher International Center

“It’s that typical American college town and experience – almost everybody in town is either working for the university or knows somebody that works for the university or goes to the university,” he says.  

University of South Dakota has a long history, stretching back to its founding in 1862, and caters to a diverse range of studies. 

“Our institution is, at its core, a liberal arts university. But we also have the state's only medical and law schools, and we have the largest graduate school – around 35 to 40% of our students are pursuing postgraduate study – and we’re Division 1 sports,” says Patrick. 

USD became an partner in 2020, with the goal of attracting more genuine and suitable applicants.

This Fall semester, Patrick says USD recorded their largest ever international student intake.

“We had a great intake of 200 new students – almost double our previous record of 109 last year – and has been a part of that,” he says. 

“But our goal has never been rapid growth – for us, it's about finding a sustainable number, a sustainable intake.” 

Boosting the volume-to-quality ratio 


Patrick says that while “the volume of applications is there” for USD, their key challenge is finding quality, admissible students – one reason they signed up with 

“We want to build relationships with partners who can help us find those serious applicants – the students that are the right fit – because, ultimately, we’d rather have 100 applications and get 80 students than 1000 applications and get 100,” he says.  

“Because maybe those 20 extra students are not the right fit – and nobody is served by not finding the right fit.”’s triple-check quality control process means that by the time an application reaches USD, there is certainty around the student’s qualifications, suitability, and visa status. 

“ really is a huge help with this – so much has gone on behind the scenes to ensure that the student is a good fit for us and that we're a good fit for the student,” says Patrick. 

Their network of agents does a great job with pre-application counseling to ensure students are set with the right expectations. Meanwhile, built-in capabilities such as document checks coupled with human expertise mean applications are pre-vetted and quality-checked.

Growing the recruitment footprint 

USD at Mount Rushmore

While USD already welcomes a diverse number of international students each intake – Patrick says they have students from 50 states and 50+ countries – the institution is always looking to expand its reach into new areas. 

“Most of our students are from South Asia – India is our leader right now, Nepal is number two, Bangladesh is three. But in our incoming cohort this fall – we’ve expanded, having about 200 students from 38 countries,” he says.  

He says it’s helpful to know that is growing its footprint – currently in 20+ countries. 

“We’re branching out into new markets and it's great to know that is also doing that – because it's helping us diversify our population. The number of countries they serve, which continues to increase, is fairly rare.”

Patrick’s team at USD works with contacts who manage relationships with agents on the ground – streamlining the process of getting information like course updates out to the network. 

“It means we don't have to be the experts on every country or every market – does that for us,” he says. 

How finding the right fit pays off - enrolled students are thriving

Patrick says’s focus on quality over quantity is the perfect strategy for USD as it grows its international cohort sustainably – and numbers are building. 

“While might only send 15 to 30 applications for a particular intake, we’ll get maybe six to eight students from that,” he says. This translates to a conversion rate of over 35% from Adventus, which is higher than our average conversion rate from other recruiters at 23%.

“We have at least four or five students on campus right now; we had two new students in the spring, and we’re already getting Adventus students for spring ’23 – so we’re definitely seeing numbers build over time.” 

Patrick says the students at USD are settled in and thriving. 

“The two that started in Spring are doing really well – academically and in how they’re engaging on campus,” he says. 

“As for our students who started this Fall – they just started, but I know a lot of them have already been getting part-time jobs on campus and are getting into their classes and getting settled.” 

Patrick says his ultimate goal is to deliver a good experience for students throughout their whole journey and he’s confident that those who come through start on the right footing. 

“Students [who have been placed by] know they're going to have academic success, and that they're going to feel valued,” he says. 

“We want them to, at the end of their journey when they graduate, look back and say, from the whole time that they started looking at the US and working with and through to starting at USD and beyond, they had a good experience, and they would recommend it to a friend or family – that's ultimately what we hope for.”