In his 22 years at Montana State University-Billings, Curt Kochner developed, oversaw or restructured parts of the university that lead hundreds of students to new directions in their lives every year.
Kochner is retiring today as vice chancellor for student affairs.
Just a short stroll to the east of Kochner's office in McMullen Hall is the Academic Support Center, launched by Kochner as a way to help students deal with new academic challenges. A few steps to the north is the Student Union Building, remodeled under Kochner's direction in 1986 and home to scores of events each year for students, staff and faculty.
Then there's the Advising Center that was opened at MSU-B to provide students with as much clear, solid and useful guidance in planning their college career as possible. Through the help of the advising staff, new students receive information about the university's general education requirements and worksheets related to their chosen majors. Students who have not selected a major start the general education requirements and are advised to work with the Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education to explore career interests.
During his term at MSU-B Kochner has had responsibility for the development of both academic and student support services. He has served as director of Student Union and activities, director of student life and housing, director of the Advising Center, and associate vice chancellor for academic and student support.
After receiving his bachelor of arts degree from Lakeland College and his master's degree in student personnel work in higher education from Idaho State University, Kochner returned to Lakeland, was director of housing as well as Campus Center director. After working for four years as director of student activities at the College of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., Kochner came to Montana in 1984 as director of Student Union and activities.
Some of the highlights he points to include the development of an Advising Center and the creation of the Academic Support Center. One of the first in the Montana University System, the Academic Support Center at MSU-B was created in 2001 to provide services to support the academic success of students.
What makes Kochner the most proud, he said, is the connection he has had with MSU-Billings students in a leadership capacity.
"My involvement with students and being involved with their learning outside of the classroom and now involved in their professional lives has been pretty exciting," he said.
He and his wife, Susan Thomas, who heads the chaplaincy program at the Billings Clinic, plan to travel to Prague this summer with 12-year-old daughter Kristin. After that, he is uncertain where his next adventure will take him.