Montana State University-Northern will be a busy place this summer as the campus undertakes a massive sprucing-up project.
“We’ve become a little frayed around the edges, ” said the campus’ new chancellor, James Limbaugh.
Limbaugh told a group of community business leaders Tuesday night that increasing student enrollment is one of his key objectives, and nothing makes a better impression on prospective students than a well-kept campus.
He said the Student Union Building will be renovated, crumbling sidewalks will be repaired, interiors and exteriors of many buildings will be spruced up, and new technology will be installed.
New bleachers and floors will be among the changes in the gymnasium, he said. Attractive signs making it easier for people to find their way around campus will be installed.
Limbaugh said he wants to see the campus’ interesting history highlighted.
“We have had plaques kept in closets, ” he said. “We want to tell our story. ”
As a first step, the front entrance to Cowan Hall has been spruced up, and has already received many positive comments, he said.
Much of the renovation work will be done with $500,000 the college has scrimped and saved on other projects. But he is also offering the community a chance to help out with a “one-on-one” opportunity. He’s hoping that one dollar will be donated for each dollar the campus hopes to spend.
Over the last decade, he said, enrollment has dropped from 1,589 to 1,273.
The declining enrollment is the biggest problem the campus faces, he said. The costs of maintaining buildings remains the same regardless of the number of students, he said, thus having fewer students means Northern faces a fiscal dilemma.
His goal is to turn the situation around by the fall of 2013.
As well as having a visually appealing campus, potential students want to feel the place is friendly, and they want to see what the campus has to offer. To address this, Limbaugh said he is resurrecting the Ambassador program, which offers campus tours to people interested in attending Northern. Tour guides will be wearing Northern attire.
The new chancellor marveled at the support the community offers the university. The “I Love Northern Ball” raised $38,000 and “Spring Fling” garnered $77,000, he said.
Many local residents have told him they would like to see Northern return to its past glory, but he said he is confident that the college’s future can be greater than its exciting history.
“Many people have asked me why I came here, ” he said.
Limbaugh left a position in Texas to accept the job.
“When I first came here, I saw the potential here, ” he said.
Now that he’s been here a few months, he said, he is more sure than ever that the potential can be reached.