The University of Montana will build on some of the challenges it faced last year with new enhancements this year, President Royce Engstrom said in his State of the University address Friday.
After enduring national scrutiny over campus safety and sexual assault, UM has taken a national lead in educating its community on curbing the problem, Engstrom said.
“We were among the first to interact with the Department of Justice through a resolution document,” he said. “Now some 75 institutions around the country are under investigation. We at UM took this matter extremely seriously, recognizing we have a key responsibility to our students.”
The administration contended with falling enrollment, which has spurred re-evaluation of the school’s recruiting and marketing, Engstrom said. Bringing students up to college-level readiness in math has also been an issue.
On the positive side, the Army Corps of Engineers chose UM for a $45 million research initiative, using Missoula experts to study archaeological and anthropological matters on Corps-managed lands throughout the nation.
Construction projects include a new phase of completion on the Interdisciplinary Sciences Building, the opening this fall of the Elouise Cobell Land and Culture Institute in the Payne Family Native American Center, and a new computing facility and expanded Wi-Fi service across campus.
The UM Foundation raised $53.7 million in private donations, which Engstrom called both a record dollar amount and a record number of donors.
On the administrative and financial side, Engstrom said he would inventory all non-academic programs to “identify those programs that are challenged with respect to effectiveness” and capitalize on others that represent best-practice higher education.
“We have in place a number of outdated practices and financial arrangements that need review,” Engstrom said. The university should not be “constrained by agreements made years ago under entirely different circumstances,” he said. The review would also look at designated funds to make sure they dovetailed with the larger mission of the university.
UM deans introduced 15 new faculty members on campus this fall, and reported the promotion to full-professor status of another 23. Nineteen faculty were awarded tenure this year.
UM students begin the 2014-15 school year Monday.