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Richard Roehm asks what Montanans will get for investing in new master's, doctorate programs

HELENA - A host of new degree programs the University of Montana plans to offer has raised the eyebrows of at least one member of the state Board of Regents, the body that oversees the state's university system.

UM plans to ask the regents at their March meeting for permission to offer three new doctorate and two new master's programs. The campus also wants to establish an avian research center as well as expand the two-year nursing program at the College of Technology in Missoula.

Regent Richard Roehm of Bozeman wonders just what the cost - and the benefit - of these programs would be.

"When I see a proposal to add a PhD program, it raises red flags because it means big bucks," Roehm said. "What are the people of Montana going to get out of it?"

UM Provost Lois Muir said employment needs, offers of external funding as well as faculty expertise drive the development of new graduate programs.

"It's the future," Muir said.

UM wants to offer doctoral degrees in anthropology with a specialization in cultural heritage studies and historical anthropology, another in biomolecular structure and dynamics, and a third doctoral degree in neuroscience.

Muir said the anthropology department has been developing this PhD program for the last three years, knowing that UM is geographically situated to sustain programs in cultural preservation and heritage.

As for the two proposed science degrees, Muir said federal agencies are urging universities to diversify their doctoral programs to meet the demands of a changing field. And the federal agencies will funnel money into the programs.

"The cutting-edge research is across the disciplines," Muir said.

The campus also wants to offer an interdisciplinary master of arts degree in intercultural youth and family development and a master's in neuroscience.

UM will also ask the regents for permission to establish a Montana Avian Science Center as well as offer a four-year nursing program at the College of Technology.

Roehm's concerns over the proliferation of programs finds the board mulling thoughts of re-establishing the now defunct academic affairs subcommittee of the Board of Regents. Roehm and other regents said they need the opportunity to scrutinize the proposals before they're given over to the time-pressed full board.

"We're finding out there's too much on our plate," Roehm said.

The board will formally consider UM's requests at its March meeting.

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