The third finalist for Montana State University Billings’ chancellor position said on Wednesday that the university is and must continue to be strong in meeting the needs of the region.
“This is a campus that seems pretty clear in its function as a regional institution,” said Dr. Margaret E. Madden, provost and vice president for academic affairs at State University of New York at Potsdam. Chancellor Rolf Groseth announced in January that he plans to retire in May with the end of the academic year.
Madden spent Wednesday speaking with MSUB officials and faculty before hosting a late-afternoon open forum, in which she gave a presentation on addressing Gov. Steve Bullock’s stated goal of increasing the number of Montanans with post-secondary certificates from 40 to 60 percent before answering questions from the crowd.
On increasing the number of graduates in Montana, Madden said she’d use a comprehensive strategy that addressed the sources of students, recruitment, retention and financial support.
“It’s extremely important, and it’s such a fundamental part of a college like MSUB to provide access to college,” she said.
Where students come from, which she referred to as the pipeline, is important in preparing them for higher education, Madden said.
Addressing the issue involves reaching out to prospective students of all ages to develop skills, work with older students to build an expectation of college and partner with tribal and other cultural groups to meet their needs.
As for recruitment, Madden said it’s important to look at the data available and using it to bring in the right students. That includes looking at targeted transfers, working with two-year programs such as City College, offering degree completion for adults, creating attractive programs that meet workforce needs and offering a variety of delivery methods, such as online and night classes.
Retention efforts would involve reviewing programs for effectiveness, using evidence-based research, identifying smaller groups that aren’t retained as well and developing programs that have real-world applications.
“Students are more likely to continue to be retained if the see what they’re working on is relevant,” Madden said.
She said that fundraising, in addition to securing state and federal support, is important, whether it’s through grants or alumni support.
“Donors really like to support programs that have an impact on individual student experiences,” Madden said. During the question and answer session, Madden commented on a wide range of topics.
On the university offering training and workforce development to non-students, Madden said it’s the university’s mission to serve the region and “that may not always involve a degree program.”
On a strategy to retain and engage MSUB’s tribal students, she said she’d have to first spend time learning about their concerns and challenges but that identifying cultural variables is important.
Madden also told the audience that she prefers to communicate through as many venues as possible and wants to give people the opportunity to question issues.
The fourth and final candidate, Dr. Mark Nook, senior vice president for academic affairs for the University of Wisconsin System, visits on Friday and will hold an open forum at 4:30 p.m. in the MSUB library, room 148.
The 18-person chancellor search committee will discuss the finalists next week and Montana State University President Waded Cruzado will make a hiring decision after.