UM Strategic Vision 1.0

Our steadfast commitment

The University of Montana is a public research institution on the cusp of celebrating the 125th anniversary of its founding. Our distinguished history of excellence in teaching, research, and public service has had a collective impact that represents higher education at its best:  we improve the lives of not only our students but also our fellow local and global citizens. We advance and share knowledge, promote artistic creation, provide opportunity, and enrich the economic and cultural vitality of our region. An intellectual, creative, and economic engine for the state, we promote an educated citizenry for a rapidly changing world. In short, the University of Montana’s value is in its steadfast commitment and contributions to our students and communities.

Artwork depicting the UM Strategic Vision principles, opportunities and initiatives
Strategic Vision artwork by Elizabeth Dove (PDF)

A critical juncture

The mark of a successful institution of higher learning is not merely that it has existed for 125 years, but that it capitalizes on its rich history by imagining an even better future. Our predecessors and fellow Montanans acted upon a bold vision to build an exceptional institution. Their intellectual, cultural, and financial investments obligate us to look forward in a visionary way. 

The University of Montana sits at a critical juncture as we face challenges endemic to higher education institutions nationwide. We will continue our storied success as a sustainable organization only if we stretch, adapt, and innovate in an environment of dynamic economic, political, and civic realities. Our aspirational vision for the future coexists with an unpredictable external landscape and immediate financial constraints, requiring that we couple agility with responsible stewardship of our human, fiscal, and natural resources. Therefore, timelines for accomplishing our strategic vision depend on our changing resource and planning environments while our strategic vision compels us to wisely invest in our priorities as a platform for growth.

The citizens of Montana take pride in their resourcefulness under constantly changing conditions. We prepare students to function under such conditions, and we aspire to operate as a nimble and resourceful institution. The breadth and quality of our impact over the next decades will depend on our willingness to take a reflective stance on and proactive approach to refining—and in some cases fundamentally transforming—our organizational structures and fiscal models, providing a foundation to accomplish our purpose in the 21st century.

Looking forward, together

The Strategic Planning Coordinating Council (SPCC) has taken as its object of study our comprehensive institution as a single body rather than specific sectors or programs. UM Strategic Vision: Creating Change Together therefore approaches the University of Montana as a complex ecosystem whose purpose is greater than that of any of its parts. Our academic, research, and service programs as well as our administrative units form a synergistic whole with a common and singular vision, mission, and set of principles. This plan serves as a foundational guide for purposeful decision making across the institution.

While UM Strategic Vision: Creating Change Together is directional in that it maps a path forward, its content rests on an assumption of existing excellence. As a forward-looking platform, this strategic vision does not suggest that we should ignore what we already do well but rather intends that we cultivate our strengths to align our aspirations with our opportunities. Our last strategic plan, UM 2020, helped to guide significant progress in a number of areas and created promising conditions for the next iteration of our strategic plan. UM Strategic Vision: Creating Change Together honors that progress while looking toward new opportunity.

Building on this foundation of excellence, this vision reflects an institutional commitment to a new way of strategic thinking and doing. Strategic thinking does not end with the unveiling of a plan. Rather, it is a continuous process of collaboration. The SPCC’s work therefore culminates not just in a plan but also in a new way of working together on behalf of and with our stakeholders. For UM Strategic Vision: Creating Change Together to remain relevant and actionable, we must focus on our priorities yet flexibly respond to our evolving contexts through persistent self-reflection, attention to emerging conditions, honest assessments, and iterative adjustments. By design, this strategic platform allows for and requires on-going action. The first expression of this on-going action will be the development of an operational plan.

During our many months of listening, the SPCC heard an emphatic call for a shift toward a new way of working together. We understand this call as a desire—in our research, teaching, learning, and work—to partner across traditional internal and external boundaries. Specifically, the broad directions defined in this plan will require sustained collaborative thought, decision making, and action. For this reason, UM Strategic Vision: Creating Change Together does not focus on particular units, programs, or departments. For these strategic directions to be tested, refined, realized and reaffirmed, we must develop new cooperative structures and a trusted data governance model that allow for proactive and integrated decision making and implementation.  

The strategic planning process

The SPCC designed a collaborative process that would model this commitment to iterative thinking and adaptation to emergent ideas, conditions, and aspirations. While the SPCC faced time and capacity limitations, we rigorously upheld our commitment to be responsive to stakeholders, adaptive over time, and informed by listening. 

We shaped our learning around a commitment to inclusivity, transparency, and data-informed inquiry. Although not exhaustive, we asked questions and listened to well over a thousand people on campus, in Missoula, and across the state. We analyzed dozens of existing institutional documents to understand current strategic initiatives. After six months of stakeholder engagement, we identified shared principles to guide our campus community’s behaviors and decisions, and we developed a set of strategic ideas for stakeholder consideration. This further engagement generated a prioritized set of focused strategic opportunities permeated by our principles and presented in this strategic vision. We listened carefully and broadly, and we are confident that what we heard helped to shape the ideas presented here. This deep engagement has been a cornerstone of our strategic thinking process and will be a necessary characteristic of our shared institutional culture moving forward.

Overview of content

What follows is a roadmap for a future that represents our collective aspirations. Our vision for the future sets an aspirational direction; our four principles provide a compass to guide our behaviors and choices; our five strategic opportunities set specific direction for continual prioritization and mission-aligned decision making. Built on our capacity and strengths, these strategic opportunities represent promising areas for an exceptional, distinctive future.

Our new vision, principles, and strategic opportunities are actionable only if we—as individuals committed to a shared and singular institutional vision—commit to strategic action. In both short term and long term planning, and in both budgetary and programmatic thinking, we must align our strategic processes, decisions, and outcomes with the initiatives outlined in this general platform for growth. To achieve this vision, we also must boldly reimagine how we operate fiscally and culturally.

Vision statement >>