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Fran Albrecht


In the past week, four impressive, experienced leaders shared their vision, skills and attributes as finalists for president of the University of Montana. Each candidate noted the gem we are fortunate to call "our university," situated in a beautiful place, a thriving community, on the shoulders of 125 years of deep-rooted tradition, with passionate supporters locally and throughout the world who are hungering for it to blossom.

For those of us who live in Missoula, we know that the University of Montana enriches our quality of life with culture, diversity, energy, vitality and is an economic engine. Students, alumni, donors, staff and faculty maintain the honor of being part of a university family who experiences elation in celebration of achievements and a personal sadness with struggle. Regardless of your connection, there is a deep desire that is pervasive across the campus, the community and the world for the University of Montana to thrive into its next chapter.

I have the privilege of serving alongside 20 members of a diverse presidential search committee that encompasses unique perspectives of students, faculty, staff, research, business, alumni, philanthropy and community, infused with gender, age and ethnic diversity. This committed group worked diligently through the arduous task of vetting 99 highly qualified applicants, winnowing this list to 13, followed by two long days of semi-finalist interviews, from which the four finalists emerged exhibiting outstanding qualifications and a clear passion and commitment to re-envisioning and leading the University of Montana into the future.

This experience has been refreshing and gives me hope. This committee engaged in critical discourse over the qualifications this university needs moving forward. The discussions were candid, passionate, yet civil, respectful and professional. I have emerged with respect and admiration for these members who authentically and selflessly committed themselves to serve for the greater good of furthering this university.

This is a critical juncture in the history of Montana, Missoula, and Montana higher education. I applaud those who engaged in learning more about the candidates, participated in open forums and provided thoughtful feedback. While not required, I am pleased that we elected to utilize an open process to elicit engagement and input from all stakeholders. The search committee will make a recommendation on the finalists who will best serve at the helm, and the Montana University System Board of Regents and commissioner will ultimately make a decision in the following weeks.

And so I ask the question, to everyone in Missoula, across Montana, the nation and the world who has a commitment and connection to the University of Montana, how you will be part of the solution of success and progress for the University of Montana?

It will take more than one person to move the University of Montana forward. It requires everyone to be a champion, to be part of the solution. Will you be someone who will eagerly help retain and support a student, champion the new leader, promote faculty achievements, refer a prospective student, open doors or forge university partnerships with your business and industry? Will you self-reflect to question whether your interests and commentary are self-serving or genuinely seek the greater good? Will you participate philanthropically, provide suggestions and remain open to dynamic ideas that are successfully changing higher education throughout the world while better serving students and inspiring faculty and staff to an even higher calling?

As we enter our 125th year, those who have come before us would certainly ask us to carry this gift of the University of Montana forward in service to the generations to come. How will you be part of the solution?

Fran M. Albrecht is chair of the Montana University System Board of Regents. 

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