Missoula College Selected to Co-Lead National Effort to Better Serve Students

Missoula College, on the Clark Fork River.

MISSOULA – Missoula College has been named to an elite cohort of two-year colleges that are implementing reforms to streamline the student education experience.

Of the approximately 1,500 two-year colleges in the U.S., the National Center for Inquiry & Improvement chose the University of Montana’s Missoula College as one of only 16 two-year institutions to implement evidence-based reforms grounded in what is known as the “Guided Pathways” framework.

“Guided Pathways provides a game plan to redesign institutional processes with the clear goal of preparing colleges to serve students,” said Dr. Tom Gallagher, dean of Missoula College. “It is very different from the traditional philosophy of preparing students for college. It is a tremendous opportunity to improve the social mobility of underserved populations at two-year colleges.”

Guided Pathways, a gold standard for community college reform, streamlines students’ journeys through college by providing structured choice, revamped support and clear learning outcomes. This education reform recognizes that current modes of education often lead many students to unintended dead ends in the form of excess or out-of-sequence course completion.

While focusing on the student experience, Guided Pathways seeks to address longstanding educational inequities and ensure that each student has a clear path to livable wage employment or a transfer pathway upon graduation and leaves fully prepared for post-college success.

Missoula College leaders recently joined representatives from 15 other colleges in Birmingham, Alabama, to connect on advancing programming and building more community stakeholders. During the meeting, the leaders from across the country examined how to:

  • build better K-12 pathways to two-year institutions.
  • enhance cross-sector partnerships to better develop equitable access to education programs that advance economic mobility.
  • shrink the skills gap facing employers.

“Missoula College and other two-year institutions across the country are uniquely positioned to solve some of the most pressing issues facing our economy, including addressing the workforce shortage,” Gallagher added. “This is an important step in a process to better serve our students and position Missoula College for further growth in the years ahead.”

The National Center for Inquiry & Improvement Rural Guided Pathways project is a three-year project that provides participating colleges access to the latest research and a team of leading community college researchers and economic development professionals delivered through a series of institutes. Project partners include the Ascendium Education Group, Community College Research Center, CivicLab, the Aspen Institute and the Ford Foundation.


Contact: Dr. Grace Gardner, Missoula College director of academic affairs, 406-243-7921, grace.gardner@mso.umt.edu.