Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
Nearly 150 people packed Montana State University- Northern’s Hensler Auditorium Tuesday for a meeting in which Montana State University President Geoff Gamble announced his selection of MSU administrator Rolf Groseth as interim chancellor for Northern. “Later, I intend to conduct a national search for the permanent chancellor,” Gamble said. “ Before we get there, there’s some work to be done.” Representatives of Northern’s students, faculty and staff, the Havre business community, Havre Public Schools and local and state government filled the auditorium at the meeting, held at 10:30 a.m. in the Applied Technology Building on the campus. People stood by the walls of the auditorium even after chairs were brought in for overflow in the 108-seat room. Northern Chancellor Alex Capdeville announced last week that he would retire the end of this month after seven years on the job. He will take a position at MSU in Bozeman after leaving Northern. Groseth said his job will be to evaluate the university’s role and position as a regional university to set the stage to attract a person of national stature to Northern’s helm, “what progress we have made, where the holes are, what we still need to do. “ We need to be deliverers of first class curriculum and world-class customer service,” Groseth added. “ The president has asked me to lead the effort to marshall resources to figure out how to best serve our customers, people in north-central Montana, central Montana and the Hi-Line.” Groseth said he will be looking at what array of programs Northern should offer and what would maximize the use of resources in delivering them. Gamble, even before members of the audience asked About whether MSU-Bozeman intends to radically change Northern, said his campus doesn’t have “imperial designs” on other campuses. “It isn’t true, folks,” he said, adding that he has a vision for Northern to continue to be the primary secondary education institution in the region. Gamble said all units of the Montana University System are feeling the impacts of declining numbers of high school graduates in the state, which he said is expected to drop by 2,000 graduates by 2015. “This campus really is the first campus to feel the full brunt of the decline of graduates in the state,” he said. While all units of MSU except the Montana State University-Billings campus had a decline in enrollment this year, Northern had the largest decline. It lost 123 students from the number enrolled last fall. Northern has seen lower enrollment every fall from 2001 to this year except in 2006. The enrollment has dropped from 1,589 in 2001 to 1,215 this fall. Gamble said all units of the system are seeing the decline and he expects it to continue. He believes what Northern does to combat the changing environment and declining enrollment could be used to help all campuses. “As we develop plans for Northern’s future we will develop a model for the other campuses,” he said. Groseth and Gamble would not make specific comments on changes Groseth might make or recommend, but they reassured audience members that they do not mean to turn the university into a two-year vocational-technical school. “There is no intention on my part or on the president’s part to do away with the four-year programs,” Groseth said. Some audience members asked if a national search was the best route to go, when someone with closer ties and more knowledge of the area might be better. Gamble said his intention is to conduct a national search after Groseth has betterdefined what the role and mission of Northern will be, possibly in six months. He said he wants a national search because it will bring a larger pool of candidates to the table, but that wouldn’t preclude a candidate with local ties from being chosen. He said the timeline and the exact nature of the search have not been decided. “We’ll leave it loose for a while,” Gamble said. Several people said the resources of MSU-Bozeman could be used to better market and fill Northern, rather than sending some jobs away to Bozeman or to set up new programs in The United Arab Emirates. One of Capdeville’s jobs once he starts at Bozeman next summer or fall will be to help MSU-Bozeman plan a possible twoyear program requested by The United Arab Emirates to be set up there, Gamble said. Gamble and Groseth said MSU and the University of Montana already send many students to Northern if it is a better fit than the programs at the larger universities offer. They said there are also many opportunities to expand Northern, including working with programs in Canada, setting up agreements with other two-year programs in the state and marketing Northern’s unique programs throughout the state and the region. Groseth said one of his priorities will be looking at ways to increase the number of bachelor’s degrees Northern offers on its Great Falls campus. “That certainly will be a focus for me,” he said. “I believe that is a market we haven’t tapped to the fullest.” In response to questions about fixing “delapidated dormitories” and “potholes on the campus you could sink a truck into” and improving student life in general, Groseth said he will continue work Capdeville has started to improve the campus infrastructure. He warned that some parts of those projects, like building new dormitories, are extremely expensive. In response to questions about loss of staff and staff members having to do double- or triple-duties or more because of them, Groseth said that under the current university funding the only real answer is to stabilize and increase enrollment. The only sources of money are from legislative appropriations from the state general fund and from student enrollment, he said.