By HDN staff
As Montana State University-Northern Chancellor Mike Rao enters his second year at the institution, he is ready to move ahead with goals set by himself and the campus community.
With the budget under repair and improved communication among campus factions, Rao said the university is ready to move on to the next areas of focus NCATE accreditation, marketing and advertisement, student excellence plan, better articulation agreements, research grants and economic development, and regional learning programs.
These are all lofty, but worthwhile and important goals. Most are imperative for the future of the university.
But we find a few concerns that we hope will not cloud the outlook of Northerns progress.
Marketing and advertisement can be a sticky wicket. Finding the target audience can be confusing, especially with a diverse population such as Northerns traditional and nontraditional students. Then finding a way to appeal to all is difficult. But with predictions for the future of the Montana University System enrollment, as published in an Associated Press article Monday, on a slow rise, Northern must reach out for its piece of the pie.
The chancellor has proposed a theme of think regionally. Distance learning sites around the state and marketing outside the state are key to his proposal.
We feel our future lies in our ability to bring people to Havre, not recruit people from Havre, Rao said in a Daily News story published Monday.
We hope that the expanded market will not forsake the local student base. Assuming that Havre and Hill County students will attend their local institution just because it is there is dangerous.
Distance learning is an effective tool, especially for nontraditional students looking to better their future. Adding FTE this way can be beneficial, but one must be careful not to drain the on-campus population which could deny traditional students the college life experience.
Recent marketing campaigns, most noticeably on the local radio stations, have begun identifying the universitys degree programs as colleges College of Nursing, College of Technology, College of Education. We see a danger in these Madison Avenue sound bites. With so much effort put into dissipating the former Northern Montana College image, doesnt this identification take the school a step back? Or does it make it sound pretentious and like more than it is? It takes more than fancy packaging to build for the future.
Discussions on better articulation agreements are nothing new. In fact, many students have turned a deaf ear to such goals taking a Ill believe when I see it stand. Lets cut the talk and get it on paper. Then youll have something to sell.
Lastly, research grants and economic development are the lifeblood of many education institutions. While this is a smart road for Northern to travel, we only warn of signing away the support of local benefactors for the gleaming promises of greener dollars. A symbiotic relationship is imperative if all are to survive.
We believe that with careful supervision and time on task, the goals set by Rao and his administration can be achieved and will benefit the university, Havre, the state of Montana, and the students. In fact, were banking on it.