Havre Daily News
Montana Board of Regents member Lynn Hamilton today said there's no push by the board to make Montana State University-Northern “anything else than what it is.”
Hamilton, a Havre resident who served as the school's public relations director for 15 years before her first appointment to the board, will join other regents this week for the board's meetings at Northern. She was reappointed by Gov. Brian Schweitzer this year. The week begins Wednesday with committee meetings. The full board meeting opens at 10 a.m. Thursday and is expected to run until noon Friday.
Some items on the agenda include a comprehensive review of the state university system's strategic plan, the approval of the MSU-N faculty labor agreement, a discussion with campus leaders and the election of the board's chair and vice chair. Also, the regents will discuss an expansion of Northern's civil engineering technology program.
Discussions by some faculty members earlier this year centered on the question of Northern's identity. In a March forum, faculty and a handful of students debated what MSU-N is and what it should become. The school offers a broad range of degrees from diesel technology to nursing to education.
“Its strength has always been its combination of strong liberal arts, teaching and nursing, along with strong technical programs,” Hamilton said of MSU-N. “It's served north-central Montana well over the years.”
Northern's direction is set by faculty and administrators, Hamilton said. She said there is no push at the Board of Regents' level to change the school's offerings. The board, she said, sets standards on enrollment for programs, and Northern has been struggling with dropping enrollment numbers. Faculty discussions, covered by the media, questioning the school's identity probably don't help encourage prospective students to attend, she said.
“If the faculty doesn't know what they want their institution to be, it doesn't help their recruitment goals,” Hamilton said.
The MSU-N civil engineering technology may be expanded to include students at the Great Falls College of Technology. The collaborative program is in response to a need expressed by personnel at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Hamilton said. The program will still be available at Northern, and MSU-N will use distance learning, traveling faculty and a new hire to deliver the program in Great Falls, she said.
The university system's five-year strategic plan serves as the regents' “guiding document,” Hamilton said, and this year's review “is probably a more comprehensive review ... than we've had for some time.”
The plan has three main goals:
To increase participation, retention and completion rates in the university system;
assist in the expansion and improvement of Montana's economy through the development of high-value jobs and diversifying the economic base; and
improve efficiency and effectiveness.