Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
Nearly 60 people gathered at Montana State University-Northern Thursday for a 3 1/2-hour session to decide what could be the first achievable steps in a variety of areas to improve the future of the university. “I’m struck by the reports,” said Bliss Browne of Imagine Chicago, the facilitator of the Imagine Northern session, in closing the session. “They are utterly practical, and inspiring because they are practical.” Browne, who founded Imagine Chicago in 1992 and now coordinates citizen leadership programs on six continents, led the group discussion of Northern’s strengths, steps to take to improve the university and how to achieve those first steps. She told the groups, before they discussed what actions could be taken in specific areas, to “pick one or two of the most promising steps you can take right now.” Interim Chancellor Rolf Groseth , who was appointed by Montana State University President Geoff Gamble in December after Chancellor Alex Capdeville announced his retirement effective the end of that month, participated in the event, working with students, faculty, staff and community members to imagine what could make Northern a stronger and better institution. “This has been very instructive to me,” Groseth said in the close of the event. The focus of the event was on the theme of the university’s student senate, said student body president Kristiny Lorett. That focus was written on a sheet of paper on the wall of the Student Union Building Ballroom, used to post the strengths and suggested improvements : “A Year for Change Be the Change.” “It’s so reassuring that everyone cares so much,” Lorett said in the event’s closing, thanking the participants for coming to the session. The event was sponsored by Hopa Mountain, a citizen leader program based in Bozeman; the anti-poverty group Opportunity Link based in Havre; and Imagine Chicago, and was initiated by the students at Northern, said Northern professor Katherine Williams. Williams, who graduated from Browne’s citizen leadership program Thursday night, has incorporated elements of Browne’s program into the curriculum of Northern’s Community Service Degree program. “We want it to stay student initiated,” she said after The session. “It may not be clean and neat, but it’s so energizing.” Browne said near the end of the session that she could see a niche for Northern that she has never heard of before: being the most familyfriendly campus in the world. “You already have so many fundamentals in place,” she added. Some of the suggestions at the event tied directly in to that, including trying to bring a daycare service back to the university. Kev Campbell of Hill County Electric Cooperative, who led a discussion group on how to bring that to reality, said a meeting to discuss creating a cooperative daycare between major employers in the area is scheduled for May 2 and it could include the university in the discussions. “It’s been a no-brainer. We’re doing it,” Campbell said. Other suggestions included planning more events ranging from more comedians and concerts to having more outdoor activities like paintball gun tournaments, archery and trap shooting or, perhaps, doing a better job letting Northern students know what is available on campus and in the community. The group discussed several areas where Northern could improve, including being more student- friendly as far as services go, although many listed the small size, competent teachers and friendly environment as one of its greatest strengths. Students also listed a desire to have better access to the campus to do work at night and on the weekends including having the library available at least on Saturday and having better security and better lighting to increase their feeling of safety on campus. The support of the community for the campus former university foundation director Tom Reynolds said that community support for the campus was evident when he first started at Northern as a coach 43 years ago and is still evident today. Community support was listed as a major strength, but the group discussed the importance of increasing those connections and awareness of of the connections. “It’s so important to build those bridges and open up communication,” Leah Noel of Opportunity Link said while the groups were discussing possible solutions. Improving the curriculum at Northern was also discussed, ranging from increasing the number of night and weekend classes available to adding programs. Some of the programs suggested for the campus included accounting, journalism, criminal justice, English, philosophy and communications, and creating the top-ranked Native American studies program in the world. “I don’t see why, where we are, in the middle of seven Indian reservations, we don’t have the premiere Native American studies program in the world,” said Brenda Skornogoski, a business professor at Northern. The first step suggested by the group, led by Skornogoski to discuss that, was to invite tribal elders from reservations in the area to collaborate with professors in that field and make presentations in the classes. Lorett said during the closing that having the students working with faculty and community members to improve their own campus shows one of the most important parts of college growing and becoming more involved, better people. “This is where we figure out who we are,” she said.