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Brad Murphy, director of the Adams Center, stands in a locker room just off the floor of Dahlberg Arena that serves as space for both visiting teams and performers. The renovation will create completely new facilities.

TOM BAUER/Missoulian

Whenever he gets the chance, University of Montana President Royce Engstrom brings it up – the school’s new initiative known as Investing in Student Success.

He has mentioned it before the Board of Regents and named it a top priority during his state of the university address. It’s a subject during high school recruitment rallies and a talking point during interviews with the media.

Over at Brantly Hall, the UM Foundation is working to make that three-year, $45 million campaign a success. The foundation has raised $3.5 million since the program was authorized in July.

“It’s a focused, priority-driven fundraising initiative,” said foundation CEO and president Shane Giese. “It ramps up your efforts and sets a bigger goal, but it really targets the scholarships, a couple facilities we need badly to renovate, and a couple programs I consider iconic for the university.”

Those iconic programs include the Davidson Honors College and the Global Leadership Initiative. Facility renovations include the library commons, student-athlete academic center and locker room facilities at the Adams Center.

But of the campaign’s $45 million goal, $25 million is slated for scholarships. When talking about enrollment trends and the choices students have when choosing a college, Engstrom believes UM needs to offer more scholarship opportunities to stay competitive with other schools.

“It’s indicative of what the competition is out there, whether it’s Montana State University or the surrounding states,” Engstrom said recently. “I think we’ll continue to grow as the institution of choice for students who want an education that prepares them for today’s world.”

Giese said the money raised for the Investing in Student Successes campaign comes in addition to the foundation’s efforts to meet the university’s other fundraising needs.

Last year, the foundation raised $17.5 million. It’s now looking to ramp that up to the $30 million mark annually. In that category, Giese said the foundation has raised roughly $9.2 million since the start of the fiscal year July 1.

“If we can keep that up and build some momentum behind this, if we can touch a chord with our alumni and friends that these are the right priorities, we’ll want to continue this and grow this initiative in the future.”

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Giese said donors have proved receptive to the school’s long-term goals, including the need for scholarships for qualified students who may struggle financially when paying for college.

“We want to attract the best and brightest students through merit-based scholarships,” Giese said. “But we also want to make sure students who are qualified – who are Montanans and want to come here – can get here, even if they have financial need.”

Giese said the university’s administration is behind the effort as well and is working hard to pitch the campaign to alumni and donors.

“(Engstrom) has taken these priorities to heart and has put in a lot of road time helping us,” said Giese. “It makes a difference for us and our operation. When you look at our success to date, people can see that the administration is really behind this.”

On a side note, Giese said the UM Foundation’s investment portfolio is doing well. At the end of the last fiscal year, it was holding strong at $155 million. Since that time, he said, returns have been strong.

“We’re at a high-water mark,” said Giese. “We’re up close to 12 percent, even from the end of the fiscal year. If you laminate that on top of $155 million, then we’re probably close to $175 million right now.”

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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