This week will be an exciting one at the University of Montana — there are many reasons to take notice. While the Brawl of the Wild enthralls our state, we’ll also be hosting the Montana University System Board of Regents meeting where we will highlight the revitalization underway at your UM.
You have heard much conversation about UM’s steps to align instructional resources with the size of our student body. These have not been easy, but they’ve been deliberate and thoughtful, and they’ve reinforced our commitment to shaping informed, engaged citizens and leaders for our great state. We are a smaller institution than we were 10 years ago, but we are a university poised to provide exactly the kind of education students need today.
My belief in this bold statement is born of my own experiences. As a Special Forces officer in the aftermath of 9/11 and later as the leader of a large software company, I saw firsthand the critical importance of creativity, problem-solving and continual learning. There was no way my professors at West Point or Oxford could have foreseen the specific challenges I would face in my career. But what they could do — and did — was provide an education that prioritized critical thinking, curious inquiry and thoughtful deliberation. I was taught that our highest purpose is to serve and that those who serve need great capacity to navigate ambiguity and embrace what may be possible.
This is the type of education UM provides and is exactly what our world needs today. Our students learn how to run a business and communicate across cultures; they learn how to ethically design a research experiment and implement proven solutions; they learn how to apply theoretical models and deal with unknowns. In an uncertain and rapidly changing world, we desperately need people who have deep expertise but can thrive in fluid contexts. In preparing our students for a future we cannot predict, our power is in the and. We strive to prepare our students to be capable experts, but also agile thinkers across disciplines who will learn and adapt over their entire careers. They are job-ready today, but prepared to shape an as-yet-unknown future.
We approach our mission to revitalize UM with great optimism and confidence. In fact, the revitalization already has begun:
• This year we saw our highest summer enrollment in recent years, up 17 percent. Our reorganized and renewed efforts to recruit new students are showing impressive progress.
• We are working to reimagine our core curriculum so that our students receive a distinctive, innovative general education that sets them apart.
• We are launching the Innovation Factory to amplify the problem-solving and entrepreneurial capabilities across our Missoula and campus communities.
• We are expanding access to a UM education via enhanced online and summer offerings that meet the needs of students across Montana and from all over the world.
• We are breathing life into our Communities of Excellence: Communication and Artistic Expression; Business and Technology; Environment and Sustainability; Health and Human Development; Science and Technology; and Justice, Policy and Public Service. These communities will build upon our strengths and enable further innovation and collaboration.
UM is on the rise. While we cannot predict the exact challenges our students will face as they enter what we know is an unpredictable world, we promise the people of Montana one thing: Our graduates will be ready and they will make an impact.