By Martin J. Kidston
Montana State University-Northern has gone through many changes in its 87-year history, and on Nov. 9, the school will open its doors and offer visitors an inside look at the technology that has made the school what it is today.
Today, on the brink of a new millennium, computers have replaced T-squares in architectural work, high-speed networks have replaced plug-and-play telephone operators named Rosemary, and on-line research banks have forced Dewey Decimal out the door. But the best technology in the world would be little without teachers to teach, and students interested in carrying the technological torch into the future.
Northerns presence is strong in todays educational market, filling a niche left open by the regions larger four-year colleges. But however strong Northern is today, its history is filled with strife and struggle, making todays success all the more savory.
History says the idea for the school was born when the buildings at Fort Assinniboine were abandoned in 1911. In 1913, local representatives from the newly formed Hill County introduced a bill in Helena which, if passed, would provide funding for the college. In 1915, after several attempts to acquire that funding, a research station finally received enough money to get off the ground.
Not until 1927 did a newly passed bill create the Assiniboine School, as it was called, which proved to the state the need for a local college. In 1929, the community mustered more support, and on Sept. 24, 1929, the town of Havre saw the doors open to the newly established Northern Montana College.
Beginning as a two-year liberal arts school, five professors comprised the staff and taught chemistry, math, English, history, political science and foreign language. A mere 80 students attended the school in its debut years.
However, despite the proven need, the state would attempt to cut funds and do away with the school in 1933, and again in 1973. But through will, community support and determination, the school survived. Since then it also has expanded and has gained a healthy reputation among the states four-year schools.
What started out as a dream with five professors and a less than exemplary list of subjects, Northern now staffs nearly 80 professors and instructors who teach everything from computer design to philosophy to 1,500 students. Like most colleges, it shares a unique bond with the community, and on Nov. 9, it will open its doors to show where destiny has taken it through the years.
University Relations Director Jim Potter said Northern will host the open house to give visitors an inside look at MSU-Northern.
The purpose of the event is to point out whats now available to the community, Potter said. Were going to spotlight our facilities, our faculty, and point out the opportunities we offer.
And the opportunities are many. With more than 25 student clubs, year-round athletics, approximately 19 associate programs, 28 bachelor programs and 5 master programs, the school has made strides since its 1927 inauguration.
Much of that progress lies in the field of technology, where Northern has become a cornerstone in offering high-tech studies to its growing enrollment. And with the advent of computers in todays world, the school has come to use the latest devices to stay on the cutting edge of a fast-paced society.
Associate Professors Roger Stone and Jay Howland teach the field of computer information systems at MSU-Northern. Though its a study that was little more than good science fiction when the school opened some 80 years ago, today its a reality and enjoys a growing interest among students.
Stone and Howland are responsible for establishing the schools Internet Business Incubation Center. The program got off the ground in 1997 and became an immediate success. The program is among many the public will see during Northerns open house.
I have some key things Ill be showing them, Stone said, looking forward to the tour. Ill show them our research facility, where the students gain valuable high-tech job experience, and Ill explain how the money we make goes back into the program, to the college and to the students.
Because IBIC pertains to computer use and Internet commerce, Stone said he and Howland will give some Internet demonstrations. After all, Internet commerce, he said, is hip in current trade markets.
E-Commerce is where current growth is, in areas like the Dow Jones and in business start-ups, Stone said. Well be taking questions about stuff like that.
During the open house, visitors also will see how the schools computer technology focuses on NorthNet the classroom of the 21st Century. Instruction will be given by Bill Leigh. Computer Animated Design will be explained by Greg Kegel, and the Automotive Departments computerized spray booth will be discussed by instructor Darryl Thackeray.
But as computer technology stands as the beacon for the future, community involvement and support by local business remain equally important. They provide the internships and equipment by which the students learn.
A strong cooperative program between Havres General Electric Locomotive Plant and MSU-Northern has provided a national example of what a good business relationship can do to produce highly educated students upon graduation.
Consequently, GEs recent donation of a locomotive engine will be on display at the Farm Mechanics Building, and instructor Greg Clouse will explain the challenges faced by diesel technology students.
Potter said visitors should meet in the lobby of Cowan Hall, and from there, tours will leave every hour on the hour starting at 10 am. Northern Chancellor Mike Rao will give a welcome speech before visitors begin their whirlwind tour.
The tour will take visitors to the library, where Dr. Will Rawn will introduce them to the state-wide computer link program used for research. The gym also will be on the tour list, as will the Student Union Building, where renovations have recently been completed.
Its totally free, Potter said.