State of the University 2001 - The University of Montana

George M. Dennison
The University of Montana

Missoula, Montana
30 August 2001

Good morning. Welcome to another year at The University of Montana-Missoula, especially to those who have chosen to join us for the first time. We old-timers think you have demonstrated uncommonly good sense in taking this decision, and we will do all we can to make certain that you never regret it. In a short time, you will find ample confirmation of your initial judgment that you have found a good place filled with good people who care a great deal about the place and what they do here. As one of the professional people of the University, I probably rank as a short-timer, since I just completed my eleventh year. Counting my years as a student here in the early 60s gives me a little more standing. I came to the University as a student because of the programs and the people that gave it a distinctive character. The University has maintained its reputation for the attention to students and their achievements and the quality and responsiveness of the faculty and staff. So long as those attributes persist, the University will prosper. Serving with such an outstanding group of collaborators makes the position of president personally rewarding and challenging. I assure you--as I have each entering group of students--that nothing compares to changing your status from student to president in such a remarkable institution.


As has become customary, I will introduce the new members of the administrative team of the University, some of whom arrived during the last year but have not yet had a formal introduction.

Sharen Peters accepted appointment as the President of The University of Montana Foundation when Fred Lee resigned. She has served the Foundation in various capacities for a number of years and knows it and the University well.

Bob Duringer, currently Vice President for Finance and Administration of The University of Maine, will arrive in Missoula on 10 September to become Vice President for Administration and Finance--coming from one UM to another UM. Bob has the background, experience, and capability to help us as we position the University for success in this new century. Please join me in extending our gratitude to Rosi Keller, Associate Vice President for Administration and Finance, for her fine service during the last eleven months as Interim Vice President for Administration and Finance. Jim Darcy, Director of Business Services, came to Missoula from Texas where he had a distinguished career in higher education before deciding at a very young age to retire. To our good fortune, he quickly tired of retirement and accepted our invitation to join us and keep us on the right track. Bill Muse, Director of Planning, Budgeting, and Analysis, also came to Missoula from Texas, most recently from the private sector. However, he has a broad background in higher education and has assumed leadership for institutional research, analysis, and planning. Pat Lloyd, Director of the Adams Center, arrived in Missoula from Tulsa late last year. He has initiated a vigorous program to make the Center the place to go in Missoula.

In Academic Affairs, Don Robson, former Dean of the School of Education, agreed to serve as Interim Associate Provost when Fritz Schwaller decided to go to Minnesota. Bobbie Evans, former Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling, accepted the position as Interim Dean of the School of Education until the Provost completes a national search to identify a permanent Dean. In addition, Dennis Lerum retired as Dean of the College of Technology but will remain in position on a post-retirement contract until the Provost can complete the search for a replacement.

In Student Affairs, Ken Welt, currently Associate Director of the Curry Health Center, will serve as Interim Director until Vice President Barbara Hollmann conducts the national search to replace Dr. Nancy Fitch. Nancy decided to do international development work and we wish her well. Joel Zarr joined us in April as the new Director of the University Center, coming here from a similar position at Fresno State University where he served as director for six years. Joel has the background and experience to help us in the future. I know you will join me in expressing our appreciation to Candy Holt, Associate Director of the Center, for her fine service as Interim Director.


In my State of the University Address last year, I argued that we stood at a critical decision point for the University and the Montana University System. For several years, our resource base lagged our aspirations and the expectations of students and the public at large. Because of the disparity between resources and needs, we faced the difficult challenges of obtaining additional resources or reducing our aspirations and commitments. Failure to acquire more resources without reducing our commitments seemed a certain recipe for disaster; reducing our aspirations and commitments required changing the mission of the University. I urged everyone to become involved to persuade the policymakers and the public at large of the importance of the Montana University System and The University of Montana to the health and vitality of the State.

In his first year as the University's lobbyist in Helena, Bill Johnston, also Director of Alumni Affairs, involved as many people as possible and stood tall before the naysayers. I want to thank everyone who participated--students, faculty, staff, and our energetic alumni and friends. We requested a 30 percent increase in State funding--unheard of for the University System since the early 1980s--with a projected 4 percent increase in tuition, and presented the case forcibly and in one voice. However, because of uncertainty with the economy and resultant funding constraints, the State provided an increase of only 10 percent for the entire System--including the associated agencies and salary increase funds for all employee groups. While far short of our request and needs, the increase will help immensely. Some states actually reduced higher education appropriations for the coming year, while others provided much smaller increases. I urge you to thank the policymakers in the legislative and executive branches for their help.

While the legislative campaign did not produce the desired result, it positioned the University for future efforts. Moreover, we made good progress in a number of policy areas. The members of the Missoula area delegation worked diligently on our behalf, especially Representative Dick Haines who took personal responsibility for legislation beneficial to faculty researchers. Several other legislative leaders also lent a hand, including Representative Matt McCann of Harlem on the Long Range Building Committee who secured $6 million for the Chemistry Building renovation and a significant sum in spending authority for a number of other projects, including expansion of the School of Law Building and a new facility for the School of Journalism. The University Faculty Association's creative series of television informationals also made a difference, thanks to President Bill Chaloupka and the Executive Board. Professor Kay Unger, indefatigable as ever, spent hours explaining our requests to members of the Legislature, earning the nickname of "Bulldog" because of her persistence. In recognition of her efforts, the Board of Regents presented to her one of two annual Regents' Citizenship Awards.

Because the appropriation did not reach the requested level, the Board of Regents approved a tuition increase of 13 percent in each of the next two years for all students except those in the College of Technology who will face 5 percent increases. The revenue from the State appropriations and the tuition increases approximates our request, albeit in a different mix of State funds and tuition. Because of these two decisions, one by the State and the other by the Regents, we can now resume progress toward achieving our aspirations and fulfilling our mission. If we capitalize on the opportunity, we can indeed move the University to the next stage in its development to benefit the students and the State.

I will not discuss the numbers today. Instead I will make a detailed report available to the campus community, and representatives of the Strategic and Budget Planning Committee will meet with various groups to explain the budget plan. Suffice it to stress that we must deliver on the commitments to maintain and enhance quality and to improve the services we provide to students and other constituency groups. For their part, the students who participated in the discussion of the tuition increases indicated their understanding of and support for them, but they made it clear that they anticipate receiving something in exchange for that support. Just keeping the doors open will not satisfy that expectation. In addition, we have pledged to do all we can to fuel the economic restructuring of the State. We have much to lose if we fail to keep faith.

Enrollment prospects appear favorable, auguring that we have perhaps stabilized and maybe even reversed the negative trend in nonresident enrollments. We had the highest nonresident enrollment in the history of the University in 1998, with some 500 fewer in 2001. A decline of that magnitude impacted the University traumatically. I have analyzed a considerable amount of data trying to understand what happened but as yet have no conclusive answers. However, I think it irrefutable that we had no way of anticipating the abrupt shift. For the next two years, we have projected enrollments conservatively and built into the budget plan a reserve sufficient to prevent disruptions similar to those of the last three years. Given the relatively good numbers, we may do better than projected and realize a bit more flexibility than planned. Let us work toward that outcome.

On the basis of these positive indicators, I think we can expect better times for at least the next two years and well beyond if we seize the moment. We have a plan for the biennium that assures a balanced budget while also supporting progressive improvements, more in the second than the first year. Professor Stan Jenne of the Department of Accounting and Finance and Chair of the Strategic and Budget Planning Committee provided the leadership that culminated in the Committee's unanimous recommendation of the plan. The plan itself rests solidly on the promises to students and faculty to attend to quality concerns and to the public to bring the resources of the University to bear on State problems and challenges. We must fulfill these commitments to the students and the public in order to retain their support. Next year at this time we will have the occasion to celebrate success or deal with the effects of failure. Let us make certain of the outcome we want.


The record for the past year speaks clearly and directly to the commitment of this faculty and staff to serve the students. Despite a very tight budget, the faculty delivered more seats in classes for students during Spring Semester 2001 than during Spring Semester 2000, albeit with some modest but nonetheless controversial changes in pedagogy. Overall, class size did not change much on average, although some Departments felt the pressure more than others. In addition, various offices around campus found the burden of student demand more onerous than others. I want to commend the faculty and staff for responding to the challenge of maintaining the quality of service under such conditions. Incidentally, The University of Montana-Missoula also had another faculty member recognized by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education as Montana's CASE Professor of the Year. Congratulations to Professor Mehrdad Kia of the Department of History! We need this kind of performance and recognition to inspire us to even greater success.

At the same time, the faculty of this University set a new record in FY 2001 for attracting external funds in support of graduate education and research, a total in awards of $48.2 million. Keep in mind, please, that we have a funded research target for 2006 of only $55 million! I find it noteworthy that fully two-thirds of the proposals submitted by our faculty earned approval for funding, nearly three times the national average. Make no mistake. These awards come to the University because of the quality of the proposals, the track records for success of the faculty who submit them, and the institutional support for their efforts. Let me cite a few examples.

On earlier occasions I have mentioned Professor Steve Running of the School of Forestry and his work in environmental modeling. Who can ever forget the Terra satellite--memorialized in the now famous poster created on campus bringing information technology, space travel, and Charlie Russell's painting entitled "The Lewis and Clark Expedition" together in collage--and the software it carried to initiate Steve's path-breaking research. Professor Rich Bridges of Pharmaceutical Sciences submitted a successful proposal to the National Institutes of Health for $7 million over five years to establish a center for research in the neurosciences involving collaboration with his campus colleagues and clinicians at St. Patrick Hospital. Most recently, Professor Jack Stanford, Director of the Biological Station at Yellow Bay on Flathead Lake, received notice of a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to establish a center on biodiversity. In addition, a group of scientists in the School of Forestry led by Professor LLoyd Queen received a multi-million dollar grant for landscape fire analysis. Let me mention as well the work of Chemistry Professor Don Kiely who believes he has found a way to substitute glucose-based, biodegradable plastics for carbon-based, non-biodegradable plastics while simultaneously providing a value-added solution to the economic challenges confronting Montana grain growers. Finally, I will mention several grants to a number of individuals and groups on campus who have accepted the challenge to make the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial a truly educational experience for all Americans and our guests.

Lest anyone misunderstand my comments, I use the volume of funded research as a surrogate for the research and creative accomplishments of a very active University faculty. All University faculty members have the responsibility to engage in research and creative activities. That engagement and the deeply felt concern for students set this campus apart and make the experience here unique and life enhancing. The accomplishments of the faculty scholars, artists, and practitioners lend luster to the University. That external agencies choose not to provide funds to support the work of all the faculty reflects a societal choice we think misguided and will not allow to distort our focus upon the necessary breadth and depth of scholarship and creativity befitting a University worthy of the name.

A few examples of the scholarship and creative activity done largely without external support will corroborate the remark. Professors Bill Farr and Bill Bevis published an anthology of the papers presented during a symposium to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Bud Guthrie's masterpiece entitled The Big Sky. The Montana Rep, under the direction of Professor Greg Johnson, toured the country for the second year with the acclaimed production of "The Diary of Anne Frank." In addition to significant grants in support of their research, Professors Doug Emlen, Ragan Callaway, Tom Martin, Erick Greene, and Michael Minnick of the Division of Biological Sciences and Professor George Stanley of Geology attained worldwide recognition for their articles published in Science and Nature, the most prestigious journals in science. Professor Melissa Harrison and colleagues in the School of Law prepared a Deskbook for Montana's District Court Judges. The University of Chicago Press recently published a book of essays entitled Philosophy and the Good Life focused on the implications of Regents' Professor Albert Borgmann's philosophy of technology. Professors Tom Power and Dick Barrett of Economics analyzed the transformation of the Mountain West economy in their new book entitled Post-Cowboy Economics: Pay and Prosperity in the New American West. Professor George Cheney of Communication Studies received the International Communication Association's Book of the Year Award for his new book, Values at Work. Professor Kate Gadbow of Creative Writing won the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction for her novel, Pushed to Shore, scheduled to appear in 2003. Music Professor Jody Graves appeared and made presentations by invitation at the National Conference on Piano Pedagogy. I mention these merely as examples of the outstanding work of the faculty.

With regard to our efforts to stimulate economic development, Vice President Lloyd Chesnut and Director of Technology Transfer Tony Rudbach led the effort to create a research and technology transfer center combined with a business incubator in collaboration with the Missoula Area Economic Development Council. This new entity, located in a building across the Clark Fork from campus, will house faculty researchers as well as new businesses seeking to commercialize the results of University-based research and technology, and will become the hub for three additional facilities planned for siting in Hamilton, Pablo, and Kalispell to serve all of Western Montana. Some $2 million in federal funds have financed the project to date, thanks to the efforts of Senator Max Baucus, Senator Conrad Burns, and Representative Dennis Rehberg. Aside from use of University land across the Clark Fork, no State or University resources have gone toward the project. For ongoing support, we anticipate that industrial sponsors will contribute through the rental of space for research, as will new businesses by paying rent, albeit very moderate, for space until they become established. With additional assistance from the federal and State governments and private industry, we plan to launch the other centers in Western Montana and to construct another building on the property next to the MonTech facility in the next few years.

While we experienced further erosion of nonresident students during the year, we had fairly robust growth in resident enrollments. As a result, we increased somewhat the percentage of Montana residents attending college in State who chose The University of Montana-Missoula. That indicates that we have done some things right, even if not everything. International student enrollments increased again last year, moving the University in the direction of achieving the goal of 1,000 international students on campus to enhance diversity. In addition, the number of Native American students also increased, thanks to the work of several people.

I want to express appreciation to those who have worked hard to achieve the goal of making the University more accessible to Montana's Native Americans. Professor Rustem Medora directs a Health Careers Opportunity Program to increase the number of Native American pharmacists and physical therapists; Professor Nabil Haddad directs a similar Mental Health Careers Opportunity Program for clinical psychologists involving a consortium of the seven Tribal Colleges in the State; Professor Gyda Swaney of Psychology directs the InPsych Program to increase the number of Native Americans with doctorates in psychology; and Dean Larry Gianchetta and Director Michelle Henderson have made the American Indian Business Leaders organization a national model for preparing Native Americans for careers in business. Without listing everyone, I welcome the opportunity to commend the faculty, staff, and students who have sought to assure that the University responds to all groups in the State.

In that regard, Vice President Barbara Hollmann and Frank Matule, Director of Admissions and New Student Services, negotiated an agreement with Blackfeet Community College for dual admission of students to that College and the University that has become the prototype for the Montana University System. We have used similar agreements with the State community colleges and have found that they work quite well. Extending the approach to the Tribal colleges enables us to build on the solid foundation that prior experience has established. We know from studies conducted by Professor Rod Brod of the Department of Sociology that Native American students who begin their college careers in the Tribal colleges graduate at higher rates than those who begin as freshmen on this campus. The dual admission process, with its requirements for satisfactory progress, will make a difference for us and for the students.

Finally, I think it appropriate to brag a bit about the recognition the University has received because of the work of the people involved in institutional marketing, an activity that seldom claims our attention. For several years, Bob Frazier, Executive Assistant to the President, has provided leadership in the effort to develop the image of the University among its many constituencies. The Marketing Committee, with Frazier as Chair, identified and implemented the institutional theme of "The Discovery Continues," a theme that positions the University to benefit from the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition that will attract millions of Americans and foreign visitors to Montana during the years leading up to the celebration. This theme also encapsulates our institutional intention to pursue the discovery of knowledge and insights that will help all people to understand our common culture and the contributions that all our people have made to enrich it.

In recognition of the success in implementing this theme relying solely on institutional resources, the University received the Grand Crystal Award from CASE for excellence in institutional advancement. In addition, the Collegiate Licensing Association that handles marketing of logo products for a select group of colleges and universities presented its 2001 Synergy Award to The University of Montana-Missoula. These achievements merit our applause because of the level of the competition, and because they demonstrate that we have gained the recognition that will help us in the future. Whether we in academe like it or not, integrated marketing has become a necessity in the modern world of information technology. We must use our expertise and resources to make certain that the public knows what we have to offer and then deliver on our commitments.


In my talk last year, I outlined my vision of The University of Montana-Missoula for the next five years. To reiterate, The University of Montana-Missoula will:

  • Educate students to become ethical persons of character and values, engaged citizens, competent professionals, and informed members of a global and technological society;
  • Increase the diversity of the students, faculty, and staff for an enriched campus culture;Attain the Carnegie Commission status of Doctoral Research-Extensive University (50 or more doctorates in at least 15 fields annually) and increase funded research volume to $55,000,000 annually by 2006;
  • Pursue more partnerships--especially with local communities, businesses and industries, public schools, community and Tribal colleges, State and local governments, and universities abroad--and expand the training and technology transfer programs to promote community and economic development;
  • Develop the capability and infrastructure for use of information technology to increase the efficiency and productivity of the campus and the State; and
  • Involve and engage the faculty, staff, students, alumni, partners, and friends of the University in institutional governance.

I find the vision compelling in that it reflects the history, values, and character of this University. Our action agenda manifests the intent to pursue this vision. However, we probably need a new target for funded research, given the remarkable success of the faculty. I will insert a revised target of $65 million by 2006.

For the coming year, we must stay the course and make even more progress. To that end, I commend the following tasks as most pressing to complete.

  1. Continue the public dialogue about the critical importance of higher education to the economic and cultural development of the State. In that regard, we will participate actively in the development of the Leadership College proposed by Regent John Mercer for people either currently serving or interested in serving in public office. In addition, I envision an educational effort similar to the campaign we conduct every ten years to explain the Six Mill Levy that supports higher education. I will lead the effort, with assistance from The University of Montana Foundation, and I anticipate intense activity during the next 18 months, followed by continued action in the years to follow. We cannot afford to allow the campaign to dissipate, since its success will strengthen the public and private partnership that alone assures the success of the University.
  2. Make additional progress on outcomes assessment and academic planning. Provost Lois Muir will lead this effort, with assistance from across campus. We must have sound indicators of the relevance and quality of our programs in terms of their impact on the lives of students. For example, we must determine the relationships between class sizes in courses and progress toward degrees. As a public institution, we cannot limit all classes to small numbers, but we can make certain that we use good information when we decide which classes to limit. The assessment information must serve as the foundation for sound academic planning. In addition, the Provost will focus discussion upon identifying those degree programs the University should develop because of strengths on campus and needs in the State, especially but not exclusively at the doctoral level.
  3. Assure quality improvements across campus during the next two years to serve the students. We will have more flexibility in that regard during the second year of the biennium, but we must do all we can during the first year as well. Provost Muir has the responsibility for fulfillment of this requirement and will report progress to the campus community.
  4. Initiate a discussion concerning the appropriateness of the University's admission standards. Provost Muir will take the necessary steps toward that end and also provide leadership in the continued development of proficiency-based admission and graduation requirements, particularly in writing and mathematics. The University has moved this agenda forward, but we must do even more.
  5. Develop the facilities master plan for the campus that we must file with the Commission on Colleges to fulfill the accreditation requirements. Interim Vice President Rosi Keller initiated the process, and we must have a report showing good progress by Spring 2002. The plan must also accurately reflect our academic aspirations and serve as a guide to campus development.
  6. Complete the implementation of the new integrated automation system for the Mansfield Library and the libraries on the other campuses of the University. Provost Muir and Dean Frank D'Andraia have announced that the new system will come on line by January 2002.
  7. Launch the replacement program for faculty computers and plan its continuance into the future. Associate Vice President Ray Ford has worked closely with Provost Muir to develop this program that has the potential to overcome the periodic obsolescence syndrome.
  8. Bring the volume of funded research awards to $53 million annually by 30 June 2002. Under the leadership and with the support of Vice President Chesnut, the participating faculty raised the total by $9 million during FY 2001. That happened not because of ambulance chasing but because of efforts to find external support for programs and projects important to the University and that we intend to pursue in any event.
  9. Review the recommendations of the International Planning Committee, ably led by Professor Paul Lauren of the Department of History, and implement those that win approval. The Committee made several recommendations, only some of which require additional funding. I will discuss the recommendations with the Executive Officers, Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate, Strategic and Budget Planning Committee, and those directly affected by them. After the Committee completed its work, we learned that we must also identify new leadership for International Programs. Professor Mark Lusk has accepted appointment at the University of Georgia to guide International Programs and will leave on 1 October. I feel confident I speak for all when I say that we regret his departure but wish him well. Vice President Chesnut has initiated an on-campus search for interim leadership.
  10. I will ask the Faculty Senate to consider a proposal to reduce the length of time between the close of Fall Semester and the beginning of Spring Semester, with the addition of a Spring Intersession between Spring Semester and Summer Session.
  11. Vice President Barbara Hollmann and Director Keith Glaes will make certain that the Student Recreation Center becomes fully operational before the close of Fall Semester, but as early as possible. Students have waited patiently for the Center to open, and they begin to pay the new fee this fall.
  12. I have asked Vice President Robert Duringer to assign high priority to a) the implementation of the Montana Achievement Project (MAP) under Director Kathy Crego's leadership, and b) the development of the institutional research and analysis function we need for planning under Director Bill Muse's leadership. As most people will recall, MAP represents an entirely new approach to the classification, remuneration, and evaluation of supervisors and staff on this campus. With regard to institutional research and analysis, we have made a good beginning but still have much to do.
  13. Finally, Executive Assistant Bob Frazier will lead the effort to expand our marketing program to assist the University in achieving its enrollment and other goals. We have earned national recognition for the institutional theme of ""The Discovery Continues." We need now to reap the benefits of that success.

Over the course of the year, we will certainly identify other challenges that merit our attention. Our major preoccupation for the short term must focus on the commitments we have made to the students and the public. Based upon accomplishments of the last decade, I feel confident that we can and will prevail.

Thank you for your attention this morning. Best wishes to each of you during the coming year.