Montana State University Billings’ interim chancellor, Rolf Groseth, laid out his two main goals for the upcoming Montana Legislature during a faculty and staff meeting on Wednesday morning.
Groseth, who will create a university committee to prepare for the 2011 Legislature, said he’d like legislators to fund a new science building and higher salaries for MSU Billings faculty and professional and classified staff.
Groseth gave his inaugural speech as interim chancellor at the annual kickoff to the academic year to welcome faculty and staff back to campus before classes start on Sept. 8.
Groseth, previously a vice president at MSU in Bozeman, is serving as chancellor until a permanent successor to retiring Chancellor Ron Sexton is chosen, perhaps sometime this fall.
MSU Billings’ contributions to the state’s largest medical community have been hindered by the aging science building, Groseth said.
A new science building has been on MSU Billings’ wish list for state money for many years.
It finally has risen to second on the Montana Board of Regents’ list of major construction projects that regents are expected to ask the Legislature to fund.
The renovation of the MSU Billings Library is third on the regents’ list of proposed deferred-maintenance projects.
Groseth wasn’t the only speaker bringing up university salaries on Wednesday.
Keith Edgerton, president of the faculty union, said low salaries hamper efforts to attract qualified younger faculty members to MSU Billings, make it difficult to retain dedicated older faculty and lowers morale for all faculty.
Groseth plans to continue Sexton’s efforts to tie MSU Billings to the larger community.
Although the past year has had its challenges, Groseth pointed to many bright spots, including successful visits from agencies that accredit individual colleges and the campus as a whole.
The gathering also heard a progress report on hiring Sexton’s permanent replacement.
The application process will close on Sept. 10, said Stacy Klippenstein, vice chancellor for student affairs and co-chairman of the search committee.
By Sept. 24, the first round of finalists may have been chosen. Campus visits by the top candidates could be in early to mid-October.
The committee’s choice may be submitted to MSU President Waded Cruzado by Oct. 28.
Enrollment is expected to be up at MSU Billings this fall and may hit a record.
As of Tuesday, projected enrollment stood at 5,122 students, 250 students more than last year at the same date, Klippenstein said.
Last fall, 5,041 students enrolled.
In other news from the meeting:
n The MSU Billings Academic Support Center received the $5,000 Pippenger Excellence in Innovation Award given annually for the most significant improvement to undergraduate education.
The ASC tutors students who need help in math, reading and writing. About 70 percent of MSU Billings students need some kind of remedial work to succeed at college classes.
n A $6 million scholarship drive is being planned to raise money for students, particularly part-time and nontraditional students who may not qualify for other scholarships.
n Renovation work on McMullen Hall and remodeling of the first floor of the College of Technology administrative building are almost finished. Construction of a new 225-car parking lot at COT will start soon.
Sexton, who officially retires Aug. 31, did not attend Wednesday’s meeting because he was with his wife, who was having surgery.