State of the University 2004 - The University of Montana

George M. Dennison
The University of Montana

Missoula, Montana
27 August 2004


Good morning and welcome. As I have for fourteen years, I will begin my State of the University Address by expressing appreciation to the faculty and staff members who continue to serve this University and to the new people who have accepted our invitation to join “a University for the 21st century.” The faculty members who recently earned promotion and tenure exemplify the talented and dedicated community of scholars that comprise The University of Montana. Please join me in extending our congratulations with another round of applause.

Life in academe attracts people with deep and abiding aspirations for excellence, both individual and collective. This University has developed because of its committed faculty and staff, who together attract outstanding students who contribute to the stature of the University through their achievements. In his history of the University, H. G. Merriam made an observation that rings as true today as it did in 1970:

Two facts about the University stand out. The first is its resolute progress toward excellence, first as an undergraduate institution and then as a university with a complement, not yet full, of offerings both undergraduate and graduate. The second is its development in spite of happenings which might have wrecked it. Emeritus Professor Edmund L. Freeman has likened the University to ‘a pine tree on a mountainside, tall and tough, but with many narrow growth rings and a number of gnarled limbs.’ One might add . . . that it has had a restricted amount of soil for cultivation and heavy winds and icy winters to withstand. Yet, there it is, testimony to the age-old idea that success may come through the overcoming of difficulties. [1]

As we open another year, I remain confident that this celebrated success will continue, no matter or even despite the conditions in the surrounding society. However, to assure that it does, we shall have to “jump,” to invoke Henry Adams’ famous characterization in The Education of Henry Adams of the capacity of the human mind to deal with the challenges of an unknown future bearing down with increasing velocity.[2] As experience proves, jump we shall if indeed we must.

But, what does the phrase “a University for the 21st century” mean? How will this new institution differ from the old, if at all? Many have tried to answer those questions, including Jim Duderstadt, former President of the University of Michigan, who coined the phrase and from whom I borrowed it.[3] I use the phase to invoke the vision of:

  • A University inspired by the insight that great societies cannot exist without great universities;
  • A University committed to educating students of all ages for meaningful, productive, ever-changing, engaged, and ethical lives in an increasingly interdependent and technological world;
  • A University with and without walls, applying information technology intelligently to enhance the quality of the education for all and to extend its resources to those in need wherever located;
  • A University fully cognizant that unleashing the creativity and productivity of the faculty and staff depends upon adequate operational support, appropriate facilities, and responsive policies; and
  • A University guided by the premise that access to needed resources depends more on imagination, planning, determination, and persistence than on any rational funding formula or well-disposed funding agency.

In brief, the University for the 21st century will succeed or fail through the dedication and effort of its faculty, staff, and students, not the largess of the surrounding and more or less supportive society. In contrast to the past, the relative positions have reversed, and the society that once held the initiative now depends for its vitality upon the regenerative power of the University. I will return to this theme later in my remarks. Suffice it for now to say that we in the University will rise or fall together, each dependent upon one another and all others within our community, and we will wait and hope in vain for the support we deem critical from a State hard-pressed to sustain basic social services. Whether we explain this new condition as self-sufficiency or privatization matters far less than that we maintain our focus on the public mission of the University to serve the people and State of Montana.

New Administrators

Before discussing the state of the University, I will take a few moments to introduce the new members of the administration. They have all served in other capacities and know the University and the challenges well. As I introduce them, I ask them to rise and that you hold your applause until I have introduced them all.

Jean Cornwall, formerly Assistant Athletic Director for Academic Services and Compliance, has become the Associate Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator. Marie Porter resigned in August and Jean assumes her position with a good foundation of experience and familiarity with the University.

Judy Fredenberg, formerly the Executive Assistant to the Vice President for Research, now has the responsibility to coordinate federal relations for the University, with the new title of Executive Director of Federal Relations. Judy has intimate familiarity with the Washington scene and understands the critical importance of sponsored programs to our financial well being.

Rob Gannon, Associate Director of Human Resources, graciously stepped in as Interim Director when Kathy Crego went to the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education in Helena to coordinate Human Resources and Labor Relations for the Montana University System. We will miss Kathy, but Rob has the experience and expertise to keep us on track. In the next few months, we will conduct a search to fill the position permanently.

Candy Holt, formerly Assistant Director of the University Center, Coordinator of the Montana Achievement Program, and Assistant Dean of the Mansfield Library, accepted the position as Director of the University Center in August. She knows the Center and the campus well, and we anticipate new vitality pervading the Center and energizing its programs.

Jed Liston, after having filled in when Frank Matule retired in May, has accepted appointment as Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Services. He has extensive experience in Admissions, knows the University and the student markets very well, and has not missed a beat since assuming his new position.

Ken Price, a Pre-Press Technician in Printing and Graphics for four years, will serve as Interim Director of Printing and Graphics, replacing Susan Matule who retired in late Spring. Ken has the experience and knowledge of the area, plus the strong support of the staff, and we can expect the service to continue at its very high level of quality.

Don Read accepted the invitation in May to become the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. Don really needs no introduction to the campus, since he served ten years as the Head Coach who established the dominance of the Grizzlies in Division 1-AA football at the national level. He has taken on the challenge to lead all the Grizzlies to even greater prominence.

Patrick Weasel Head, a familiar name on campus and in Indian Country, has agreed to become the Director of American Indian Student Services Program, after filling the position on an interim basis during the founding year. Our Native American enrollments continue to rise, but we can and will do more to assure that these students not only enroll but graduate at higher rates.

Please join me in applause to wish these persons great success in their new roles.

The Current Situation

As we begin the second year of the fiscal biennium, we have good cause for optimism. We have kept tuition increases fully five points below the national average for two years in a row, restrained fee increases, implemented “best practices,” held funding reductions to minimal levels, and maintained a balanced budget enabling us to sustain the momentum of recent years and protect the quality of the education we provide. Through good planning and prudent management, we welcome to the campus this Fall twelve new – not replacement – faculty members authorized last year to fulfill our commitment to quality. In addition, we have a contingency fund as a hedge against future challenges, even though Summer Session enrollments for undetermined reasons did not meet projections.

As an enrollment-driven institution, we simply must meet our enrollment targets. Unfortunately, the decline in nonresident students continued last year, although resident enrollments grew modestly. The projections for this year suggest that we have begun to reverse the decline of nonresidents. To achieve planned enrollments, we have invested institutional and donated funds in scholarships and financial aid to attract outstanding students and those with need from inside and outside Montana. Generous donors have assisted us, most notably Dennis and Phyllis Washington with a multi-year grant of $1 million (which we will match) for scholarships for Montanans through the Horatio Alger Society. As a result of the generosity of many donors, The University of Montana Foundation transfers more than $2.7 million annually to the University from endowments, most of which supports scholarships for students. By holding down the tuition increases and committing institutional and donated funds, we have helped to make college possible for more prospective students and attracted a higher portion of the most able.

Meeting enrollment targets will become increasingly challenging during the next few years as the high school cohort declines, especially in Montana and other states that have sent us students in the past. Research indicates that we will have to open new markets and act aggressively to retain the ones we have. We can succeed only by working together and by engaging the students who come. Experience and research prove that students matriculate and persist at higher rates when they have the attention and support of faculty and staff. In today’s competitive environment, we can attract good students, but we will retain and graduate them only by fulfilling our promise of a responsive education of the highest quality in an attractive, safe, supportive, and engaging campus environment. We have done well, but we can do better. While a division of labor makes sense in terms of the strengths that each individual and group brings to the task, a retreat to the silo mentality of “you get ‘em, we’ll keep ‘em” will guarantee failure. Engagement of the students holds the key to higher retention and graduation rates.

In pursuance of this goal, we successfully expanded our array of responsive programs last year, especially at the two-year and graduate levels, and the new programs have enhanced the attractiveness of the campus. The two-year programs respond to the needs of business and industry and provide job opportunities for the students who earn the certificates and degrees. The graduate programs have the potential to foster economic development in the region and the State, and also add to the University’s capability to diversify its sources of financial support. No University can support graduate education without the external support that comes from sponsored programs and partnerships. During FY 2004, the faculty of this University attracted more than $65 million in new contracts and grants to support graduate education and research. With a hit rate of more than 60 percent for submitted grant proposals, this faculty has a remarkable record of success.

Even though critical in terms of support for graduate education, funded research provides only a surrogate indicator of the scholarly and creative achievements of the faculty. Similarly, the numbers of published articles and books, exhibited works of art, and dramatic or musical performances offer equally crude and imprecise measures. I will paraphrase John Slaughter’s oft-quoted comment to emphasize the importance of the scholarly and creative engagement of the faculty: Research and creative achievement is to teaching as sin is to confession; anyone not engaged in the former has no need for the latter. A faculty engaged in scholarly and creative activity fulfills the highest obligation of the profession, and our performance evaluations assess the quality of that engagement, analyzed in terms of significance and impact. Thus, the recognition accorded to members of the faculty reveals much more about the commitment to scholarly and creative engagement than numbers, although we must attend to numbers as well.

Consider the following illustrative but by no means exhaustive list of awards and other forms of recognition attesting to lives dedicated to scholarly and creative endeavor:

  • The Pen Award for 2004 in recognition of the excellence of his essays to Professor Stewart Justman, Department of English;
  • The Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award for 2003 to Assistant Professor Joanna Klink, Creative Writing Program;
  • The Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association 2003 award for adult fiction to Associate Professor Debra Earling and 2003 award for adult non-fiction to Assistant Professor Judy Blunt;
  • The Louis W. Stern Award in 2004 to Professor Jakki Mohr, Department of Management and Marketing, for the outstanding article published in the American Marketing Association journal during the last five years;
  • The North American Benthological Society Award of Excellence in Benthic Science in 2004 to Jack Stanford, Biermann Professor of Ecology;
  • The success of Professors Rich Bridges, Director of the Center for Structural and Functional Neuroscience, and Andrij Holian, Director of the Center for Environmental Health Sciences, in securing highly competitive NIH funding for two Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence at the same University;
  • The National Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning’s Award for Innovative Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Technology in 2004 to Professor Garon Smith, Department of Chemistry;
  • The selection by the Hydrology Division of the Geological Society of America of Professor William Woessner, Department of Geology, as the Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lecturer for the coming year;
  • The Parenting Resources Gold Award in 2003-2004 to Professor Rita Sommers-Flanagan and Assistant Professor John Sommers-Flanagan, Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling;
  • The 2003-2004 Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers recognizing the “unique prestige value” of a writer’s original pieces to Assistant Professor Charles Nichols, Department of Music;
  • The publication in 2004 in Nature of another article by Associate Professor Ragan Callaway, jointly with Professor Bill Holben and Research Specialist Giles Thelen, Division of Biological Sciences, thereby extending the remarkable publication record of the University’s science faculty – including Professor Ken Dial, Associate Professors Ragan Calloway, Doug Emlen, and Erick Greene, Division of Biological Sciences, Senior Research Scientist Tom Martin of the University’s Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, and George Stanley, Department of Geology – in Science and Nature, two of the most prestigious journals in the sciences;
  • The appointment of Professor Johnny Moore, Department of Geology, to the Los Alamos Laboratory as a special researcher on loan for two years;
  • The invitation of Dean Perry Brown, College of Forestry and Conservation, to serve for Spring Semester as a special assistant with the U. S. Forest Service in Washington, D.C.;
  • The invitation to Dean David Forbes, School of Pharmacy and Allied Health Sciences, to provide testimony before the Senate Finance Committee about the critical importance of funding to support research and graduate education; and
  • The CASE Professor of the Year for Montana Award in 2003 to Emeritus Professor Gerry Brenner, Department of English, making it four in a row for the University, with Professor Mehdrad Kia, Department of History, in 2000, Professor John Photiades, Department of Economics, in 2001, and Professor Esther England, Department of Music, in 2002.

Because of this level of engagement, we have a solid foundation upon which we can build for the future.

In addition, we added six new exchange agreements to increase the opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to study and work in other cultures. At The University of Montana, we sign an exchange agreement only if significant support for it exists on the campus. We insist on agreements that actually work rather than existing only on paper. I believe that we must find ways to assure that every student at this University has an international experience, even if only for a summer abroad. To achieve that goal, we must provide an array of interesting and challenging opportunities and find ways to assist the students with the costs.

Finally, we have made progress toward creating and maintaining the state-of-the-art facilities the faculty and students must have to excel.

  • Thanks to the funds provided three years ago by the State, we will complete the renovation of the Chemistry Building by December of this year. In addition, generous private support from the estate of a retired faculty member and the Murdock Trust has allowed us to install modern equipment in the facility.
  • Using some of the indirect cost recoveries earned through ongoing contracts and grants as the source of revenue to retire a construction loan, we have constructed some new laboratories for faculty members in the Division of Biological Sciences and the College of Forestry and Conservation. The University receives indirect cost recoveries – as distinct from the direct costs of the research – with every sponsored program, and roughly one-third of those funds go to the Colleges and Schools responsible for doing the work. Such projects as the new laboratory facility indicate how sponsored research enhances the entire campus environment.
  • Generous donors led by John and Sue Talbot and Lloyd Shermer have contributed the funds for Anderson Hall, the new $12 million facility for the School of Journalism, and the construction will begin during the coming year. The University will match a portion of these contributions. Once completed, Anderson Hall will bring together the print and broadcast faculty members now spread across the campus. We have yet to raise the funds to equip the facility and assure that graduating journalists enter the professional world prepared technologically and intellectually for their work. Dean Jerry Brown and I will work on that together in the coming year.
  • A $3 million federal challenge grant, some indirect costs recoveries to retire $7 million in revenue bonds, and $4 million in private donations will finance the expansion of the Skaggs Building that houses Pharmacy, Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Physical Therapy, and Psychology. We expanded that building in 1999, with the generous assistance of the ALSAM Foundation created by Sam Skaggs, only to find we needed more space within three years because of the tremendous growth of research programs. Sam Skaggs has once again helped us to move forward by contributing a large portion of the private funds.
  • The bond issue that provided funds for the Skaggs Building also generated $3 million for deferred maintenance projects across the campus. As one of the funded projects, we will install an elevator in the Mathematics Building, thereby facilitating access to some critical programs.
  • We have made progress toward raising funds to renovate and expand the Law School Building, but we still have a ways to go. The Steering Committee for the fund-raising effort will increase its efforts, with assistance from Dean Ed Eck and me, to bring this project to a successful conclusion.
  • Finally, we have a significant commitment toward the construction of the Native American Center on campus. Together with the establishment of the American Indian Student Services Program, the Center will assist in our effort to meet the needs of Native American students.

This listing reveals how partnerships with the State and federal governments and private donors help to assure that the faculty and students have the necessary infrastructure to succeed.

But not everything went smoothly. During the first part of 2004, we had to resolve a fiscal deficit of nearly $1 million in Athletics. I will comment briefly, since the deficit attracted a great deal of attention and caused considerable pain and embarrassment for many people, including the unfortunate resignation of former Athletic Director Wayne Hogan. University personnel – not external investigators – discovered the problem and alerted me, and I informed the Commissioner and the Regents once we confirmed the deficit and identified two accounting errors and the lack of fiscal discipline as the cause. The Commissioner appointed a special panel that found no wrongdoing after an extensive investigation but recommended a number of changes in the management of the Athletics budget. I accepted the recommendations and we have implemented a plan that will eliminate the existing deficit by FY 2008 and prevents any recurrence. Eliminating the current deficit does not involve tuition or fee increases or budget reductions elsewhere on campus, but relies instead on revenue from royalties, concessions, license plate sales, ticket sales, and a small increment of University funds. Preventing any recurrence requires additional revenue from ticket sales, concessions, and royalties, a modest infusion of University funds for Athletics over five years, and a minor increase in the Student Athletic Fee – $2 per year over four years for a total increase of $8 per year. Anyone interested can secure copies of the Panel Report and the University response and plan from the President’s Office. This deficit of less than $1 million did not destabilize the University’s total budget of more than $265 million. Nonetheless, we will not tolerate chronic deficits, whatever the magnitude, because of the potential impact on our record of accountability.

All things considered, we had a successful year. Weathering it required the identification of creative ways to maintain the momentum and respond to the needs of the students and faculty. I say that knowing full well that we must do even more to realize the full potential of the University that exists in its faculty, staff, and students. I invite you all to assist as you can in response to that challenge.

Public Higher Education in the New Millennium

In my address two years ago, I cited with approval Dave Breneman’s warning not to expect a return to the halcyon days of public higher education financing. [4] In fact, I believe that within a decade we will find it difficult to distinguish public from private higher education on the basis of funding. [5] As President Graham Spanier of Penn State noted recently, if the analysis includes federal funds for student financial aid and research contracts along with state funds, then “public institutions have become more private, . . . [and] private universities have become more public,” with both heavily dependent upon sources other than State appropriations. While not everyone shares that perspective, I commend it to you as a sound basis for planning. I will take a moment to explain because I think it very important that we all understand our current situation.

In a recent report on public higher education finance, the State Higher Education Officers disagreed and offered a more optimistic conclusion. They noted that, while enrollments nearly doubled between 1970 and 2003, average state funding for higher education “kept pace both with enrollment growth and the Consumer Price Index,” although with considerable volatility annually. [6] The periodic economic downturns led to depressed state appropriations, but state funding rebounded as the economy recovered. The Officers observed that “Conceivably, this pattern of rebounding state support after a downturn may not be repeated in coming years. Yet, both history and the growing demand for higher education suggest that the states’ commitment to higher education will continue.” I respectfully disagree. While I have great confidence that this University can and will find the means to fulfill its mission, I do not believe that State appropriations will increase significantly in the years ahead, however aggressively we argue our needs.

Further analysis of the data adduced by the State Higher Education Officers explains my skepticism about their conclusion. In real terms, after adjusting for inflation, average state appropriations for higher education per FTE student actually declined by 7.3 percent between 1991 and 2003, while net tuition per FTE student increased by 28.6 percent. [7] The Higher Education Officers extended the period of analysis to 1970 and thereby included the benefits of the “golden era of public higher education” but failed to note the emergence of a very significant change beginning in the early 1990s. Using 1991 as the beginning date, the national trend looks quite different.

Moreover, while following the same curve, the trend in Montana after 1991 clearly looks toward self-sufficiency or privatization in public higher education sooner rather than later. [8] In fact, this University depends upon State appropriations for only about 12 percent of its total budget. Stating that conclusion does not imply, as I will explain shortly, that we should stop trying to show the policy makers that investment in higher education makes good sense. [9]

Returning to the point, between 1991 and 2003, enrollment in Montana public institutions increased by roughly 25 percent, compared to the national average of 18.7 percent, while State appropriations in constant dollars per FTE student decreased by 28 percent, compared to the 7.3 percent decline nationally. At the same time, the net tuition increase in Montana surpassed the national average increase by 130 percent, thereby allowing Montana to exceed the national average increase in expenditure per FTE student – more than doubling the national average percentage increase in expenditure per FTE student during the period. Quite clearly, the increased expenditure per FTE student occurred because Montana public higher education relied heavily on student tuition and other resources rather than State support. And, equally significant, even as tuition ramped upward, State-funded financial assistance remained flat at about 16 percent of the national average per FTE student.[10] While dismal on the surface, these statistical comparisons nonetheless offer some basis for continued optimism. We have made progress even in the face of adversity, growing stronger, more effective, efficient, and entrepreneurial in response to the challenge of self-support.

As my last comment suggests, I cite these data not to complain about our situation, but rather to urge that we work together to sustain and diversify the sources of support for an institution essential to the people and State of Montana. In fact, Montana compares quite favorably to the national average with regard to tax effort in support of higher education. Nationally, the average state appropriation to support higher education amounts to $13.20 per thousand dollars of personal income, while Montana provides $12.28 per thousand dollars, or 93.1 percent of the national average. But low income levels in the State mean that the dollars appropriated per FTE student equal only 76.3 percent of the national average. As with virtually every other indicator, the unfavorable comparison reflects the structure and state of the Montana economy more than the lack of a public commitment to higher education. These data indicate that Montanans support higher education, but the revenue available to the State has not kept pace with the demands for necessary social and educational services.

That conclusion explains why I subscribe to the view that we must find ways, first, to assist the economic development of the State and thereby augment the support available for higher education; and, second, to diversify and increase the sources of revenue available to the University until such time as economic development generates additional State revenue. In pursuance of the first challenge, we must get solidly behind the Shared Leadership Project initiated by the Board of Regents in cooperation with the Governor and the Legislature. This multi-faceted project has considerable promise, not only because it commits the resources of the Montana University System to aid business and industrial development, but also because of the pledge to provide technical assistance to the State. As Regents John Mercer and Mark Semmens have said so well on numerous occasions, the intellectual power to move the State into the 21st century exists on the campuses of the Montana University System. In my view, we can accept that challenge without losing sight of the primary mission of the University to educate students and generate new knowledge. In fact, we will probably find that success in one arena contributes directly to success in the other. I urge everyone to become familiar with the components of the Shared Leadership Project and to participate in every way possible.

At the same time, we must focus closely upon achieving efficiencies in order to make the best possible use of available resources, while also diversifying and enriching existing revenue streams. The implementation of “best practices” has produced hundreds of thousands in savings during the last few years, and we have not yet exhausted the possibilities. During the coming year, for example, Business Services will eliminate the familiar paper copies of student bills, substituting on-line notification and payments on account. This change will generate additional savings for re-investment even as it creates some uncertainty and tension on campus, most of which we can minimize or avoid with good and effective communication. Virtually all of the savings to date have occurred in the business and administrative sectors of the University, with some in student services. Continued success will require involvement of the academic sector, since that sector accounts for nearly 60 percent of the University budget. Relying on comparative analyses – possible for example by using the data aggregated in the Delaware study in which we participate institutionally – we can look carefully at what we do and how for areas of possible improvement. Once again, however, just as with the use of information technology, we must act intelligently to realize real benefits, rejecting the usual tendencies toward either reactive denial of possibilities or blind insistence on mass efficiencies that undermine quality.

Diversifying and augmenting the revenue streams will take some imagination and creativity. Several faculty researchers have participated in the technology transfer and business development activities at MonTEC located across the Clark Fork from campus. Commercialization of new discoveries has great potential, although not every discovery has or must have immediate potential. Those around during the Summer saw the press coverage of two new initiatives I described for exploration. One looks toward the development of an entirely new revenue stream through a joint venture with a private firm to construct a retirement community on University property. Many universities around the country have taken advantage of an exploding interest among new retirees for access to University-based programs and experiences. I believe we can compete very well. Another joint venture with a private group will explore the establishment of undergraduate colleges in China to serve the demand for access to Western higher education. If Chinese students cannot gain access to the United States for educational purposes, someone will deliver the education on site. Why not us? Neither of these ventures requires capital outlays by the University, with both in the early stages but promising of new revenue to contribute to the University. In the years ahead, we will search for other such opportunities, always mindful of the need to protect existing resources and to pursue the public mission of the University.

Simultaneously, we must intensify our actions to educate the public and the policy makers about the investment potential of higher education. For an investment of roughly $125 million annually, the State realizes about $750 million in economic activity. Few other investment opportunities generate that kind of return. Even discounting the initial outlay as a public expenditure, the leverage produces $625 million in economic activity that otherwise would not happen. I believe we can do even better with assurances of continued support. But we must always make the case in terms of a demonstrated return, emphasizing the incidental but critical benefits provided by a highly educated citizenry.

The remarkable success of the Montana University System research enterprise provides a wonderful example of the positive impact of good public policy. Sponsored research has grown on each of the campuses involved at a truly astonishing rate during the years after 1990. I will cite only the numbers from this campus, since the growth curve looks the same for the Bozeman and Butte campuses. In FY 1990, The University of Montana recorded just over $7 million in funded research, a total that grew rapidly to more than $65 million in FY 2004. How and why the nearly tenfold increase? While recognizing and praising the energy and talent of the faculty researchers who submitted the successful grant proposals, I submit that a policy change in 1990 made the record of achievement possible. In that year, the Legislature adopted a statute allowing the campuses attracting contracts and grants to retain the associated indirect cost recoveries for investment in the research enterprise. In previous years, the General Fund appropriation had gone down as indirect cost recoveries increased. With no incentive, the research enterprise stagnated. This statutory change indicates quite clearly how policy decisions affect the success of higher education in assisting with economic development in the State. Because of that decision, the State now has a thriving industry that generates nearly $200 million annually in economic activity fueled by funds coming from outside the State.

We have a great deal to offer, as my example indicates. But we also have much to gain as we identify new revenue streams and exploit those currently available to us. In the years ahead, we must maximize every opportunity to do so.

Agenda for the Year

I will use this occasion, as in prior years, to outline an agenda. While my earlier remarks undoubtedly identify the priorities, I will nonetheless state them for clarity.

  • We simply must meet our enrollment targets. We can succeed in doing so if we engage the students. Failure to engage them will undermine our effort to provide an education of the highest quality. We all understand that the quality of an experience, educational or otherwise, depends on the level of engagement of the individual. In our case, the engagement begins with the recruitment process and must continue through matriculation to graduation, and the outcome depends upon the active involvement of student and faculty or staff member, not just one or the other. In brief, faculty productivity depends upon student productivity, and vice versa.
  • We must finalize the reform of the General Education Program, with the emphasis on goals and objectives we can evaluate and assess in terms of learning outcomes. The Faculty Senate referred the work to a sub-committee of the Academic Standards and Curricular Review Committee. As we proceed, let us identify and articulate goals we can actually assess.
  • We must operationalize our campus-wide outcomes assessment program. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities identified this requirement four years ago during the accreditation review. Each Department and program has the responsibility to develop and implement outcomes assessments to demonstrate the successful achievement of stated goals. We have made some progress on assessment of competency in writing and mathematics, but not consistently with regard to other outcomes. We will undergo an accreditation visit in next year that will focus on our success or lack of it.
  • We must participate in the Shared Leadership Project and do all we can to assist in the economic and cultural development of the State. While each of us brings different skills, talents, and interests to the work, we can all contribute. It behooves us all to think of how we can help, rather than speculating about why the effort will fail.
  • We must attract even more external funds to support graduate education and research. For FY 2005, I challenge the faculty to push the new grant award total above $70 million.
  • We must maintain existing facilities and aggressively seek the funds to construct new ones. The bond issue will allow us to focus on critical deferred maintenance projects. At the same time, we must identify the private funds required for the Law Building and the Native American Center, and make good progress on funding for the Montana Museum of Art and Culture and the expansion of Media Arts.
  • We must redouble our efforts to attract private support for scholarships and fellowships. We do fairly well for undergraduate students, but not for graduate students.
  • Finally, we must focus sharply on ways to become more efficient and effective with the use of available resources. In that regard, we can achieve savings through inter-campus cooperation and collaboration in pursuance of the restructuring that began almost a decade ago. During this current biennium, we have reallocated nearly $5 million to protect the smaller campuses from reductions in force and programs, allowing those campuses to position themselves for future challenges. It behooves us to analyze how we do things and use any savings to protect the quality of all that we do.

Let me close by thanking you again for your fine work. I look forward to another good year in the continued development of The University of Montana. Have a great year, and enjoy it as you do!


1 H. G. Merriam, The University of Montana: A History, (Missoula: University of Montana Press, 1970), p. xi.

2 Henry Adams, Democracy, Esther, Mont Saint Michel and Chartres, The Education of Henry Adams (reprinted edition; n.p.: The Library of America, 1983), p. 1175.

3 James Duderstadt, A University for the 21st Century, ( Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000), passim.

4 See David W. Breneman, “For Colleges: This Is Not Just Another Recession,” Chronicle of Higher Education (14 June 2002): B7; and George M. Dennison, “Privatization: An Unheralded Trend in Public Higher Education,” The Montana Professor 12 (#3; Fall 2002): 10-14.

5 On this point, see Graham B. Spanier, “The Privatization of American Public Higher Education,” (University Faculty Senate Presentation, The Pennsylvania State University, Spring 2004), passim.

6 Paul E. Lingenfelter, et al., State Higher Education Finance ( Denver, CO: State Higher Education Officers, 2004), passim., esp. p. 8.

7 Ibid., p. 23.

8 See the American Council on Education’s Project, “The Changing Relationship Between States and Their Institutions,” especially the first report entitled “Shifting Ground: Autonomy, Accountability, and Privatization in Public Higher Education,” at

9 On this imperative, see “From Our President,” The Presidency 7 (No.2; Spr. 2004): 9-10.

10 See State Higher Education Finance, p. 72.