UM Creates University Design Team to Chart Direction of Flagship’s Future

UM President Seth Bodnar has tasked the University Design Team to support the University's strategic future.

MISSOULA – Imagining a flagship for America’s future is the core mission of the University Design Team, a group of University of Montana employees newly charged with charting the University’s future trajectory.

The committee was created by UM President Seth Bodnar to position UM for long-term success and impact, and represents a cross-section of campus personnel and disciplines, including student representation.

Spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic and rapid changes in higher education and technology, the UDT ultimately is tasked with delivering a strategic vision for Montana’s flagship public research institution – one that serves students of the future and parlays UM’s people, programs and places into national prominence.

“We see the committee’s work as an opportunity to think deeply and critically about UM's role in expanding our conception of what higher education can and should be,” said Paul Gladen, UDT co-chair and director of UM’s Blackstone LaunchPad and Accelerate Montana. “Given the changing patterns of education, we have an immense opportunity to reimagine the possibilities and innovate our strengths into a model of the future.”

Drawing upon the perspectives of the UM campus community, as well as public stakeholders that include statewide community leaders, business leaders, admitted students and prospective students, UDT will consider the challenges and opportunities in higher education and will identify design principles and potential strategies to position UM for thoughtful change, impact and continued relevance. Most notably, the UDT will build upon recent years’ worth of strategic planning at UM, including an institutional strategic vision put forth by UM’s former Strategic Planning Coordinating Council.

Adrea Lawrence, dean of the UM Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and UDT co-chair, said a transformative vision of higher education is due.

“The current pandemic is only one of many illustrations of the acceleration and change across higher education ꟷ shifting curricula and operations that have been largely in place for a century,” Lawrence said. “With the thoughtful feedback and work alongside our campus and community partners, we view the UDT as an opportunity to understand what University stakeholders want and need, and how we might identify meaningful, agile ways to respond.”

Lawrence said the team is committed to transparency and collaboration during its process. Organized in three phrases and aided by market-informed research, the UDT will identify and recommend strategic adoptions for the University this fall. There will be several opportunities for campus engagement, including listening sessions and open forums before final recommendations are delivered to University administration. 

“We are the fortunate beneficiaries of the efforts of earlier generations who guided our flagship through many challenges across its 127-year history,” Bodnar said. “It is now our turn to thoughtfully, strategically and courageously design the continued and new characteristics that should embody a flagship of the future. I look forward to engaging with our community stakeholders using the results from the thoughtful work from the UDT.”

For more information on the UDT visit


Contact: Paul Gladen, University Design Team co-chair, Blackstone LaunchPad and Accelerate Montana director, 406-396-3534,; Adrea Lawrence, University Design Team co-chair, UM Phyllis J. Washington College of Education dean, 406-243-5054,