By Martin J. Kidston
The State Commissioner of Higher Education and his senior staff spent Monday at Montana State University-Northern mingling with students and staff in an effort to assess the schools needs.
Commissioner Richard Croft arrived from Helena early Monday morning with Associate Commissioner Rod Sundsted and Deputy Commissioner Joyce Scott. The trio began the day meeting with MSU-N Chancellor Mike Rao and his senior associates.
Although the talk behind closed doors was official, Croft said the main purpose of his visit was simply to understand the issues facing the college.
Every year, the senior staff and I visit all state campuses, usually in the fall, Croft said. There really isnt any agenda to our visits. We just look around and touch base with the issues and needs of the schools.
Crofts day included a conference with the Associated Students of Northern, a lunch with community leaders, and an open forum. He also took time to discuss the State Board of Regents and its newly established mission statement set for the Montana University System.
Croft said the board has worked hard on devising the mission statement, which explains the purpose of the Montana University System as one which shall deliver high quality post-secondary educational opportunities to the citizens of Montana.
Balancing access, cost, and accountability must be maintained, the mission says, while supporting a diverse community of scholars and learners.
The board worked on this mission for over a year, Croft said. They did a good job.
Croft said that each campus will create its own mission statement based on the work of the board. Rao began that task when he took the position as Northerns Chancellor last year. His work on the mission statement is nearing completion and will place the school in line with the recommendations of the regents and their vision for the future of Montanas universities.
Croft said each campus is faced with its own unique challenges.
The biggest issue this campus faces is keeping enrollment up, Croft said of Northern.
Enrollment at Northern is up this year, though it has fallen at Northerns campus in Great Falls a fact which Croft said should change once Northerns new course offerings there begin.
Croft said he was happy to see that most of Northerns graduates are getting jobs and that the technical programs are accredited. He said he still hopes to see the schools education program gain the NCATE accreditation. Northern has set NCATE as one of its top goals.
The most important goal, according to our survey, was to achieve NCATE accreditation, Rao said last month. The trend in the last 10 years has been to make sure your teacher certification program is accredited by that council.
Business aside, Croft said he was pleased with the trip.
I like to come here. Its a nice campus, Croft said. This visit was really an open forum a learning expedition. We dont ever want to lose sight of whats going on outside of Helena.