State of the University 2007 - The University of Montana

George M. Dennison
The University of Montana

Missoula, Montana
24 August 2007

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Good morning. For eighteen years, I have enjoyed the honor and privilege of addressing the campus at the beginning of a new academic year. While every year has brought with it some unexpected contingencies demanding attention, I confess that I have indeed enjoyed these occasions and the years that followed. I believe as well that the state of the University remains robust, drawing energy and vitality from the new and continuing students, faculty, and staff. The new faculty members just introduced and those 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 another warm welcome to the first group and hearty congratulations to the second with a round of applause.

Academe has always attracted people who aspire to excellence, both individually and collectively. This University has earned a world class reputation for the quality of the education delivered and the research conducted by its talented and committed faculty and staff, who together attract and engage outstanding students coming literally from around the globe. One of my favorite quotations characterizing The University of Montana comes from H. G. Merriam’s still useful if incomplete history published 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. [H. G. Merriam, The University of Montana: A History (Missoula: University of Montana Press, 1970), p. xi.]

Merriam’s comments retain their resonance and relevance as the 21st century brings with it unanticipated but nonetheless invigorating challenges and opportunities. With the past as prologue, we can and will respond in full measure. I will return to this theme later in the address.

New Administrators

Before I continue, please allow me a few moments to introduce the new members of the administration. As I call their names, I ask them to rise and you to hold your applause until I have introduced them all. Some of the new people have not arrived as yet, but we can certainly welcome them in absentia.

The first you have already met, but he deserves a formal introduction. Royce Engstrom, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, comes to us from the University of South Dakota where he served for nearly three decades as a faculty member, Department Chair, Dean, Vice President for Research, and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Clearly, he has done it all and seen almost everything one might encounter in academe, and we will now benefit from his wide experience and apparent talent.

Mehrdad Kia, formerly Professor of History and then Assistant Vice President and Director of International Programs in Research and Development, has agreed to accept appointment as Associate Provost for International Programs in Academic Affairs. Professor Kia has ushered in an era of activity and accomplishment in international affairs, with a new and widely recognized Central Asia and Caspian Basin Program, and we expect international education and programs to continue to flourish under his energetic leadership.

Roberta (Bobbie) Evans, Dean of the School of Education, resumes a role she relinquished about four years ago to give more time to her family. She performed admirably during the earlier period, served last year as Interim Dean while we conducted the national search, and has already begun to move the School forward with an aggressive agenda. We welcome her back to the role she knows well.

Peggy Kuhr, most recently Knight Professor of Journalism at the University of Kansas, formerly a practicing journalist and editor, has accepted the challenge as Dean of the School of Journalism to lead the effort toward media integration in the Journalism curricula while sustaining the School’s reputation for preparing professionals to recognize and present a relevant story with attention to good taste and ethical imperatives. She comes with the experience and insights that augur success.

Frank Laurence, a former faculty member at several institutions, Hemingway scholar, member of the Missoula Symphony, and resident of Hamilton, has agreed to serve as Interim Director of the Hamilton Higher Education Center. In that role, he will coordinate program offerings in response to identified needs of place-bound people in the Bitterroot Valley of Ravalli County.

Jim Darcy, formerly Director of Business Services, has accepted Provost Engstrom’s invitation to serve as Director of Budgets for Academic Affairs. Jim’s knowledge of the University and its budget processes will prove immensely helpful to Provost Engstrom, and we welcome his return.

Betsy Hawkins joins us from the private sector as Director of Human Resources. Her former positions have included consulting work for the Group Health Cooperative and Director of Human Resources for Kootenai Medical Center of Coeur d’Alene and Sacred Heart Hospital of Spokane. She brings with her a rich background of expertise and experience that will serve the University well, continuing the pattern set by Kathy Crego and Rob Gannon.

Krista Frederickson, formerly with Missoula United Way, has joined The University of Montana Foundation as Director of Annual Giving. She will provide leadership for the annual Business and Campus Fund Drives that raise money to support the University’s Excellence Fund.

Please join me in a round of applause as we wish these persons great success in their new roles.

The Current Situation

The as yet unwritten history of Montana higher education will without question identify 2007 as the year of a sea change. For during the 2007 Session, the Montana Legislature approved Governor Brain Schweitzer’s College Affordability Plan, better known as the CAP, interrupting a national trend of three decades running that shifted ever more of the cost of education to the students and their families in rising tuition and fees. The CAP, with the endorsement of the Montana Board of Regents, mandated zero tuition increases for Montana resident students during the two years of the 2009 biennium. In addition, the CAP included general fund appropriations to hold the campuses harmless from the resident tuition freeze, doing so by reference to calculations of unavoidable cost increases based on definitions accepted by the Governor, Legislature, and campuses. A change of this significance has not occurred in Montana since at least World War II.

Even so, however, we will not know definitively whether a sea change actually occurred until after the next Session of the Legislature. Two years of zero tuition increases cannot erase the effects of thirty years of increases above the rate of inflation that gradually but inexorably restricted access to higher education. The Governor has made clear his intention to restrain tuition increases over the coming years in the interest of assuring access to higher education for Montanans. We all commend the determination to persevere so as to restore a more appropriate balance between general fund investments and tuition revenue in the funding of Montana public higher education. We also agree about the need to re-invest in higher education in order to realize the cultural and economic benefits a robust higher education system can provide. We will certainly do all we can to assure that the sea change actually occurs.

This positive development brings in its train some interesting challenges as well. The large increase in general fund appropriations replaces the revenue the University would otherwise have received from resident tuition increases estimated at five to six percent for each year of the biennium. In plain, unvarnished terms, the University did not receive a “windfall” of new revenue as a result of the CAP, but rather the CAP replaced tuition revenue with general fund appropriations. We applaud this welcome relief for Montana students and their families, but we must also recognize the consequences: During the biennium, we will have no funds to pay for enrollment increases if they occur, and only a limited but nonetheless critically important amount of one-time-only funds specially appropriated by the Legislature for one new program in Speech and Language Pathology. Essentially, we have a steady-state budget with very little room for contingencies unless we realize enrollment increases, which we will have to finance on the margin if they occur. Despite these challenges, the sea change represented by the adoption of the CAP has our enthusiastic support.

After taking the challenges into account, we have established a balanced budget to begin the biennium. To do so, we found it necessary to use most of our contingency funds. Summer Session enrollment produced good results, with revenues exceeding the target by more than $500,000, largely the fruits of the successful effort last year to integrate online enrollments into the regular budgeting process. For a smooth and transparent change that benefited our students and the University, we owe a debt of appreciation to a group of people that worked under the guidance of Associate Vice President Bill Muse and Dean Sharon Alexander. If Fall and Spring enrollments hold, we will have more room to maneuver. The prospects currently look favorable, but we all need to do what we can to assure the success of our recruitment and retention initiatives.

In that regard, during Spring Semester, the University contracted with an external consultant to assist in the development and implementation of a responsive retention program for the campus. While the institutional retention rate for entering freshmen to the sophomore year differs little from the 70 percent achieved by similar institutions, we must find ways to improve it. Several committees composed of faculty, staff, and students have worked diligently under the leadership of Vice President Teresa Branch and Associate Provost Arlene Walker-Andrews to identify promising strategies for implementation. While we will not see the results of the efforts until later in the year, we must reaffirm our commitment to reduce attrition in the interest of assuring student success and institutional well being. It simply makes no sense to recruit students only to allow them to fail and leave. I urge everyone to do what you can to assist these efforts.

We have also implemented new recruitment strategies to sustain the enrollments of resident and nonresident students. Experience indicates that yield rates go up when faculty members take a more active role in the recruitment process. I want to thank those who participated by making telephone calls, sending email messages, writing letters, and visiting with potential students and their families. In addition, I deeply appreciate the willingness of faculty and staff members to volunteer in the outreach initiatives we implemented last year, visiting about a dozen cities and towns to interact with potential students and their families. Once again, we will learn the results of these efforts when we see our final enrollment numbers on the fifteenth day of classes. Other universities have found that these engagement activities by the faculty and staff make a difference. We will probably need to sustain them for some time to achieve the results we need.

The MPACT Program – Montana Partnering for Affordable College Tuition – we implemented last year to attract more qualified but needy Montana resident students has proven successful. Despite our invitation to collaborate in delivering the Program, no other campus has accepted. The criteria for involvement require demonstration of financial need combined with academic preparedness. We want to avoid attracting students who attrite in high numbers. With very little advance notice, we managed to enroll 66 resident students last year who otherwise would not have attended college. This specially designed program provides financial assistance through a combination of federal grants and loans and institutional work-study grants. More importantly, this cohort of students persisted to the sophomore year at a rate above 90 percent.

It appears that we will have a larger cohort of MPACT students this year and we intend to continue the Program because of its benefits to students, the State, and the University. As the number of graduating seniors in Montana continues to decline, we will have to find ways to increase our market share in order to sustain enrollments and to assist the State in the development of human capital. But we will do so only by recruiting qualified students. The programs we have implemented to recruit qualified nonresidents appear to work as well, since the decline of nonresident enrollments that occurred during the earlier part of the decade has subsided. In fact, we anticipate some continued but modest increases. The Admission staff will implement new initiatives during this coming recruitment season to affect enrollments in Fall 2008, and they will undoubtedly call on you for assistance. Please help as you can.

To achieve the planned enrollments, we will continue to invest institutional and donated funds in scholarships and financial aid to attract outstanding students and those otherwise qualified potential students with financial need from inside and outside Montana. The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation recently renewed a multi-year grant of $1 million (which we will match) for scholarships for Montanans in collaboration with the Horatio Alger Society. The Greater Ravalli Foundation provides scholarships for the first two years to students from the County, with the condition that the University will take care of the last two years if the students do well. The Student Assistance Foundation contributed grants of $500 each to fifty seniors who engaged in community service during their high school years on the condition that the Universities they attend will match the grants. We have attracted some of these students, and will work to attract more of them, since they come well prepared. The SAF will increase the number of grants to 150 for Fall 2008, thus providing more opportunities. Finally, because of the increased number of generous donors, The University of Montana Foundation transferred more than $4 million to the University from endowments in 2007, most of which supports scholarships for students. These efforts help to make college possible for more prospective students, attract larger numbers of more able students, and assure institutional stability.

The last couple of years presented new challenges for our research and graduate education programs. Even though critical in terms of support for graduate education, funded research represents a surrogate indicator of the scholarly and creative engagement of the faculty. Similarly, the numbers of published articles and books, exhibited works of art, and dramatic or musical performances offer crude and imprecise measures of achievement. Numerical tallies will never capture the qualitative attributes of scholarly and creative engagement. In a humorous comment, John Slaughter called attention to the importance of the scholarly and creative engagement of the faculty, which I will paraphrase: 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 actively so engaged respects 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 for their achievements – through promotion, tenure, and merit and other awards – reveals much more about the commitment to scholarly and creative engagement than numbers alone. The faculty of this University continues to perform well, despite the challenges. In August 2007, Science magazine [Jeffrey Mervis, “Scientific Publishing: U.S. Output Flattens, and NSF Wonders Why,” 317 (#5838; 3 Aug. 2007): 582], one of the leading journals for science publications, provided corroboration in a review of a recent National Science Foundation report. During the years between 1992 and 2003, research funding increased at The University of Montana by 230 percent and scientific publications in Science by 89 percent, the fifth highest increase in the country. As Vice President Dan Dwyer commented when he read the study: “It is not just the money but what you do with it.”

Even considering these caveats, the volume of funded research makes a significant difference for the University and for graduate education. No university, private or public, can sustain graduate education without the support that comes from funded research. The challenges for continued success in attracting external support for funded research became apparent in FY 2006, when the research expenditures fell below the level attained in FY 2005. The expenditures rebounded to slightly above the FY 2005 level in FY 2007, but have remained relatively flat for the last three years. This situation resulted not from a lack of engagement or competitiveness of the faculty researchers who submit the proposals, but rather from the relative decline in the amount of funds available in the federal agencies, foundations, and corporations coupled with the significant increase in the number of applicants seeking those funds. No doubt the fiscal pressures caused by the war in Iraq impacted the level of research funding as well. While comments in the media attribute a significant part of the decline to the movement in Congress to halt the so-called “earmarking” of funds, I must state for the record that “earmarks” have constituted no more than about five percent of the funded research at this University. Our faculty researchers competed successfully through the peer review process for the majority of the funds they secured, and they continue to do well on a comparative basis because of the quality and relevance of the proposals they submit. To illustrate the point, I will mention only three examples: The successful proposal submitted by Professor Andrij Holian for the renewal of a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence Grant from NIH in support of the Center for Environmental Health Sciences for $10.6 million over five years; the $5.4 million grant awarded to Professor Jack Stanford by the Moore Foundation to support research on fish habitat in Russia, Alaska, and British Columbia; and the $3 million plus awarded to Professor Brent Ruby to support research to enhance the health and physical condition of those who work under extreme conditions, as firefighters and military personnel in combat. Based on the recent actions of Congress to increase the funds available through the NIH, NSF, Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Homeland Security, and Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency, and the rebound of research expenditures on campus last year, I have great confidence that we will have an even better year during FY 2008.

The highlight of the past year, however, occurred over the summer. I refer specifically to another historic first for the State of Montana and Montana higher education. Sometime in July, we passed over the $100 million target of the comprehensive campaign we have in progress in partnership with The University of Montana Foundation: “Invest in Discovery: Connecting People, Programs, and Place.” Most people will recall that two years ago, in a festive gala held at the Washington Ranch on Grant Creek, we made a public announcement of the campaign, ably led by Campaign Chair Debby McWhinney and her Campaign Cabinet consisting of Trustees Priscilla Gilkey, Mickey Sogard, and Charlie Oliver, with the support of a Campaign Steering Committee. When we made the public announcement, we had commitments totaling about $72 million, and now we have passed the critical benchmark. We have attained this historic level of achievement because of the work and collaboration of the dedicated UM Foundation Trustees and staff with Deans, faculty, and volunteers. I know we have some Foundation Trustees and members of the Steering Committee with us this morning, and I invite them to stand as we recognize them and their work with a well deserved round of applause.

However, we have not yet achieved all the financial goals we set in advance of the campaign, although we have exceeded some, as for endowments to support scholarships and current funds for academic and research programs. We launched this campaign after an extensive period of careful planning and thought. Through a deliberate and inclusive process involving the campus community, the Foundation Trustees and staff, and the stakeholders in and out of the State of Montana, we established priorities in four critical areas that totaled $100 million: Endowments for scholarships; endowments for faculty chairs and programs; ongoing program support, intended for immediate expenditure; and funds for construction and renovation of facilities. The priorities explain the purpose and the subtitle of the campaign: “Connecting People [read faculty, staff, and students], Programs, and Place [read Missoula, Montana, and the facilities needed for state-of-the-art research and education].” Those priorities remain as important today as when we originally set them, and we will persist in our efforts to secure the support needed.

More than 25,000 people have contributed in the campaign to date, over 8,000 of them for the first time, and more than half of them alumni of the University. The outpouring of support from our alumni and friends provides a wonderful testament of the love and respect thousands of people have for this University, its faculty, students, staff, and programs. Because of all we have achieved, we must persevere to satisfy all the goals before closing the campaign on 31 December 2007. Over the next four months, we will work even harder to make certain that we fulfill the goals we so painfully and thoughtfully established for the campaign. We will need the help of everyone in order to succeed. I will take this opportunity to thank publicly everyone who has helped and contributed to date, and urge those who have not yet done so to join us in this last major push for complete success. We have four months and must make the most of them.

Certain other developments during the year merit attention as well, since they underscore the very good work of a number of people to assure that the University fulfills its mission.

  • During Commencement Week in May, we dedicated two new facilities made possible by the campaign: Don Anderson Hall for the School of Journalism, and the Skaggs Addition for the College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences, thanks to the tireless work of former Dean Jerry Brown and Dean David Forbes.
  • The marketing campaign advertisements created by University Executive Vice President Jim Foley and others across campus virtually swept the awards in the State and captured two golds and other awards in the CASE Regional and National Competitions.
  • For the first time in the history of the award, The University of Montana Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, led by Director Jim O’Day, won the Presidents’ Cup given by the Big Sky Conference for the best combined academic and athletic performance of the year.
  • Under the leadership of Associate Vice President Rosi Keller, the Planning Committee has completed a master plan for the South Campus that will guide development of that area in response to the University’s academic, athletic, and student housing needs in the future.
  • The extensive and ongoing work overseen by Vice President Bob Duringer to renovate the utility tunnels, while making it difficult at times to get from one part of the campus to another, will pay huge dividends in later years.
  • We have initiated the construction of the new Interdisciplinary Science Building adjacent to the Health Sciences Building; will soon begin the work to renovate and expand the School of Law Building; will break ground next Spring for the Native American Center, adjacent to the Oval near Lommasson Hall; and the Phyllis J. Washington Education Center, an addition to the Education Building; and expect to break ground for the Gilkey Executive Education Center, just west of Gallagher Hall, next Fall. The leadership for these projects came from Vice President Duringer, Dean Jerry Fetz, Dean Ed Eck, former Chair of Native American Studies Kate Shanley, Dean Bobbie Evans, and Dean Larry Gianchetta.
  • Overcoming some challenges, we have sustained the accreditation of all of our programs.
  • Finally, we opened the Hamilton Higher Education Center to serve the needs of place-bound people in the Bitterroot Valley of Ravalli County and will work collaboratively with all other colleges and universities in the State wishing to participate, including the proposed Bitterroot Valley Community College.

The creative and diligent engagement of the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends resulted in a year of outstanding accomplishment for The University of Montana. But, then, considering the legacy bestowed upon us by prior generations, we have no choice but to sustain the tradition in the pursuit of excellence and service to the State, region, and world. For your excellent work, I have tremendous respect, great admiration, and profound appreciation.

Agenda for the Biennium

I will use the time remaining to outline the agenda for the biennium, ending with an emphasis on the year we open today. The developments of the last couple of years make it clear that we need to begin to think about the future and what these developments portend for us and for the Montana University System. Before turning to the agenda, I will sketch some background that provides a context.

The implementation and continuation of the CAP discussed earlier presents some new challenges and opportunities, especially when combined with emerging trends within and needs of the State. The cohort of graduating high school seniors will continue to decline until late in the next decade, while the percentages of each cohort going immediately to college will undoubtedly remain stable, or decline as well, without some intervention. These related trends augur considerable enrollment volatility on the MUS campuses, with each struggling to increase its market share of a declining number of potential students. The Regents have committed the Montana University System to the enhancement of enrollments on the two-year campuses, currently showing the most rapid growth which can continue only if 1) the participation rate of the graduating cohorts increases, and 2) prospective students have incentives to consider campuses other than those in Bozeman and Missoula. The Regents also have an interest in assuring stable and robust enrollments on the other four campuses offering baccalaureate programs, specifically those in Billings, Butte, Dillon, and Havre. Achieving this objective will require strategies similar to those that will enhance two-year campus enrollments.

At the same time, but for different reasons, the Regents have an interest in promoting graduate education and research because of the demonstrably profound impact upon the economic vitality of the State and region. The most recent research studies reveal a direct correlation between graduate enrollments and economic vitality. [Ting Zhang, “Data Sources: Graduate Education and Regional Economic Growth,” Council of Graduate Schools Communicator 40 (#6; July 2007): 4.] In addition, the most recent forecasts envision a robust economy in Montana for the next few years, thus affording an environment at once supportive, because of the economic vitality, but also needful of the kind of nourishment and impetus that graduate education and research typically provide. [Paul E. Polzin, “Montana’s Economy: All Sectors Contribute to Recent Growth,” Montana Business Quarterly 45 (#2; Summer 2007): 9-11, at 11; and Richard Florida, “The Flight of the Creative Class,” Liberal Education 92 (#3; Summer 2006): 22-9.] For a variety of reasons, the time appears propitious to invest in graduate education and research to assure the diversified and robust economy Montana has not enjoyed since at least the decade of the 1950s.

Enhancing graduate enrollments and research involvements will require policies and incentives to achieve those objectives at the two doctorate-granting, research-oriented Universities in Bozeman and Missoula. Increasing research involvements requires more graduate students, since research and graduate education go together in a synergistic relationship characteristic of American research universities. To grow the graduate enrollments and research involvements on these two campuses will in all likelihood require limits on the numbers of undergraduate students they enroll. Other states have developed and implemented strategies to achieve the desired results, most notably Colorado and California, and Montana can surely learn from their success. Implementing these strategies will also address the other challenges mentioned above with regard to two-year education and stable, even growing, undergraduate enrollments on the other four senior campuses. Such an opportunity comes infrequently in academe. It strikes me that we have the chance to carry forward the work of our predecessors as they sought to develop The University of Montana, lauded by Professor Merriam in the passage from his History that I quoted at the outset. Let us not miss this opportunity.

For The University of Montana, Missoula, the challenge lies in finding ways to achieve the long-term objective, without undermining institutional viability, while simultaneously meeting State needs. Policy changes to move in the desired direction will take some time to analyze, discuss, and adopt on the campus through our usual governance processes, before seeking Regental approval, with implementation on a future date allowing time for aspiring students to understand and prepare for their impact. As we develop the necessary policy revisions, we must also identify alternative scenarios for attaining the desired outcome. In a word, we will need to define the proper mix of enrollments by level and residency that will enable the University to increase graduate education and research, and devise strategies to attain those goals while enhancing institutional vitality and viability. Once again, doing so involves learning what other universities have done and adapting their strategies to fit our circumstances. We need not re-invent the wheel with so many valuable lessons available to us.

Within that larger context, I will outline the agenda for the coming year as I envision it.

  1. I will work closely with Professor Penny Kukuk, Provost Royce Engstrom, the various PACE Task Forces and Committees, and the Faculty Senate to bring to successful resolution the policy revisions developed over the last three years to assure that the University maintains a work environment supportive of gender and ethnic diversity among the faculty, staff, and students. Most people will recall that we have enjoyed the assistance of a grant from the National Science Foundation to support this work, and that grant ends in 2008.
  2. Vice President Teresa Branch and Associate Provost Arlene Walker-Andrews will coordinate our ongoing retention initiatives and report results in late Spring 2008.
  3. Provost Engstrom will lead the development of revised undergraduate admission standards for the campus based on academic preparedness, using an analytical approach to predict applicant performance in our academic programs. We have conducted analyses in the past indicating that the appropriate combinations of high school grade point averages and test scores serve two important purposes. First, their application provides greater confidence that admitted students can and will persist to graduation in higher percentages; and, second, that students denied admission as first-time freshman on preparedness grounds perform better on average by attending another two-year or four-year school and transferring later, if indeed they still desire to transfer. A revised set of standards emphasizing predictable student success will allow the University to continue to admit nonresident students based on the same standards. Any revision of admission standards requires approval by the Regents and a prospective implementation date.
  4. Vice President Branch, working with the Enrollment Management Committee, will develop for implementation as early as the recruitment season for Fall 2009 an approach that facilitates recruitment to major programs of study rather than to the University at large. We do this already at the graduate level, but we have not extended the approach to undergraduate recruitment. Doing so will enable the Admission staff to work with the faculty and focus their efforts on sustaining the critical masses of students essential for the various programs we intend to maintain.
  5. Foundation President Laura Brehm, Provost Engstrom, and Campaign Chair Debby McWhinney will work closely with me, the Vice Presidents, Deans, faculty, and volunteers to position us to achieve our objectives in the comprehensive campaign by 31 December 2007. We have preliminary plans for a gala celebration of our success to occur the week-end prior to Commencement in May 2008.
  6. Associate Provost Walker-Andrews will continue her work with various faculty committees to assure that the University meets the standard for assessing general education outcomes when an accreditation team visits the campus next Spring. At the same time, we will participate as an early adopter of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges’ Voluntary Assessment System that begins this year. I urge all faculty and staff members to support these critical projects.
  7. Vice President Dan Dwyer will collaborate with Deans and faculty researchers to assure the continued upward trajectory of funded research expenditures. Doing so will in all likelihood entail consideration of enhanced infrastructure and related support. I will anticipate detailed analyses of funding requirements for consideration as we develop the institutional budget request for the 2009 Legislative Session.
  8. Vice President Bob Duringer will oversee the ongoing construction work on the campus to assure that we have the facilities to deliver our programs, and also work with the appropriate people on all four campuses to develop the facilities request for the 2009 Legislative Session.
  9. Chief Information Technology Officer Ray Ford will continue the work to assure a functional network with appropriate bandwidth and technology infrastructure to meet the administrative, academic, research, and outreach needs of the University.
  10. Dean David Strobel will cooperate with the Deans, under Provost Engstrom’s oversight, to develop strategic initiatives that will enable the University to begin to increase incrementally its graduate enrollments as early as Fall 2008. I will anticipate detailed analyses of potential strategies and costs for inclusion in the institutional budget request for the 2009 Legislative Session.
  11. Associate Provost Mehrdad Kia and Mansfield Center Director Terry Weidner, under the oversight of Provost Engstrom, will develop intensive language programs in the critical languages and assure the maturation of our international programs, with particular attention to Central and East Asia.
  12. Vice President Duringer and I, with assistance from the entire administrative team, will collaborate with our counterparts from Montana State University and the Commissioner and her staff to develop a new funding model – including financial aid incentives, differential tuition, and targeted enrollment and graduation incentives – for the Montana University System to facilitate the achievement of the Regents’ goals and objectives.
  13. We will all strive to meet the needs of the students and to fulfill the University’s mission in the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge.

Let me close by thanking you again for your fine work and your commitment to the University and its mission. 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!