Regents vote to continue expanded COT welding program

2011-11-18T12:15:00Z 2011-11-19T00:15:13Z Regents vote to continue expanded COT welding programThe Associated Press The Associated Press
November 18, 2011 12:15 pm  • 

The Montana Board of Regents voted to continue an expanded welding program at the Montana State University Billings College of Technology during its meeting in Bozeman on Friday morning.

Regents also approved spending $1.6 million to draw up plans for a new business college at MSU in Bozeman. The unanimous vote to move ahead with the design of the new $20 million College of Business was one of several projects the regents approved as the board wrapped up two days of meetings in Bozeman.

Two years ago, the COT added a four-semester associate degree in welding that included courses teaching skills needed in the booming energy industry.

Because that program received a fast-track approval due to the high demand for welders, it required a review this year to ensure it was still needed.

The program has remained popular and graduates still are sought by employers, according to Vern Gagnon, chairman of the COT welding program.

During the two-day meeting at Montana State University, regents also approved a pay raise of a little more than 1 percent for MSU Billings Chancellor Rolf Groseth, bringing it to $157,555.

Earlier this fall, regents approved pay raises of about the same percentage for most other campus leaders in the state as well as faculty and staff.

Following a longstanding policy, Groseth’s raise was delayed until after negotiations were completed for MSU Billings faculty.

Jake Jabs, who donated the money to build the business college at MSU, received a standing ovation from the regents and the rest of the higher education officials in the audience. The 80-year-old furniture entrepreneur and 1952 MSU graduate donated $25 million to build the new business college, the largest gift in University System history.

“I want it to be a real showplace,” Jabs said.

Susan Dana, the interim business dean, said the project is creating “energy and excitement among students, faculty, the business community and the entire campus.”

The regents also approved a $1.5 million update to the Museum of the Rockies’ planetarium and the creation of a new Institute of Ecosystems. That research project is to be run jointly by MSU and the University of Montana and is funded by a $20 million, five-year National Science Foundation grant.

The board also agreed to let MSU expand and renovate the student Writing Center at Wilson Hall, using $300,000 in building fees paid by students.

Regents approved the first contracts with the new Associated Faculty of MSU unions. The two contracts include modest raises of 1 percent plus $500 this year and 2 percent plus $500 next year, the same raises awarded to other university employees.

University employees said they are still concerned about pay levels that rank among the lowest in the nation.

Kevin McRae, the University System’s chief negotiator, said the raises come at a time when the state Legislature gave no increase to other state employees.

McRae told the regents a study is under way to find what more can be done to improve pay and other factors that affect the hiring and retention of faculty and staff.

The Montana Board of Regents voted to continue an expanded welding program at the Montana State University Billings College of Technology during its meeting in Bozeman on Friday morning.

Regents also approved spending $1.6 million to draw up plans for a new business college at MSU in Bozeman. The unanimous vote to move ahead with the design of the new $20 million College of Business was one of several projects the regents approved as the board wrapped up two days of meetings in Bozeman.

Two years ago, the COT added a four-semester associate degree in welding that included courses teaching skills needed in the booming energy industry.

Because that program received a fast-track approval due to the high demand for welders, it required a review this year to ensure it was still needed.

The program has remained popular and graduates still are sought by employers, according to Vern Gagnon, chairman of the COT welding program.

During the two-day meeting at Montana State University, regents also approved a pay raise of a little more than 1 percent for MSU Billings Chancellor Rolf Groseth, bringing it to $157,555.

Earlier this fall, regents approved pay raises of about the same percentage for most other campus leaders in the state as well as faculty and staff.

Following a longstanding policy, Groseth’s raise was delayed until after negotiations were completed for MSU Billings faculty.

Jake Jabs, who donated the money to build the business college at MSU, received a standing ovation from the regents and the rest of the higher education officials in the audience. The 80-year-old furniture entrepreneur and 1952 MSU graduate donated $25 million to build the new business college, the largest gift in University System history.

“I want it to be a real showplace,” Jabs said.

Susan Dana, the interim business dean, said the project is creating “energy and excitement among students, faculty, the business community and the entire campus.”

The regents also approved a $1.5 million update to the Museum of the Rockies’ planetarium and the creation of a new Institute of Ecosystems. That research project is to be run jointly by MSU and the University of Montana and is funded by a $20 million, five-year National Science Foundation grant.

The board also agreed to let MSU expand and renovate the student Writing Center at Wilson Hall, using $300,000 in building fees paid by students.

Regents approved the first contracts with the new Associated Faculty of MSU unions. The two contracts include modest raises of 1 percent plus $500 this year and 2 percent plus $500 next year, the same raises awarded to other university employees.

University employees said they are still concerned about pay levels that rank among the lowest in the nation.

Kevin McRae, the University System’s chief negotiator, said the raises come at a time when the state Legislature gave no increase to other state employees.

McRae told the regents a study is under way to find what more can be done to improve pay and other factors that affect the hiring and retention of faculty and staff.

Contact Mary Pickett at mpickett@billingsgazette.com or 657-1262.

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