I am writing to express my support of locating the Missoula College on the South Campus property.
I am not sure if there is anyone out there who has enjoyed or benefited from the University Golf Course more than I have. I learned to golf on the course, and now my children walk there to play. Living a couple of blocks away, we are regular users of the course and intramural fields; all seasons, for all reasons. It will be hard to see that change.
That said, I strongly support both the necessity of funding and expanding Missoula College and the use of this location for these facilities.
As an educator working in high schools and assisting with transition to work and college, I see the need for this change as critical. Loosely speaking, only 30 percent of individuals in the United States complete a four-year college degree. This means that 70 percent of our work force is trained in a different environment.
These are our nurses and dental hygienists, x-ray and lab technicians, our welders, plumbers, machinists, mechanics and obviously many more highly qualified individuals. Yet in high school, the emphasis is on the four-year institution, while two-year and technical training is barely mentioned.
My students, when asked about their plans, will say things like, “oh no, not college, I’m just going to the COT,” as if this is a second-rate choice. And why wouldn’t they think that? The current facility is indeed second-rate – really pretty unbelievable, actually. Further, even with the opportunity for a new facility, they are being told that they don’t rate highly enough to be a part of the University of Montana physically, and that a golf course is more important than their education.
UM President Royce Engstrom is absolutely correct in citing close physical proximity as improving broad use and flow between both institutions. We are talking common sense here: shared facilities offer the best to all. He has made clear, however, that he hears and appreciates Missoulians’ great love of their open space, and that he will work, both short-term (maintaining golf course) and long-term (working with the public to address open space over time) to preserve it as possible (maybe a nice little par 3?).
We need to support this move. It benefits our university, our city and our state economically over time. Most importantly, all of our students deserve the integrity of an excellent institution for learning and to know that their college is valued as part of the greater Montana University System.
Sally Ann Chisholm is an educator in Missoula Country Public Schools.