By Tim Leeds
Dr. Terry P. Roark visited Havre and the Montana State University-Northern campus for the first time this week, but he said he plans to be back.
Dr. Roark, who was appointed interim president of the Montana State University system two weeks ago, said he doesn't believe he can understand the needs of the members of the university system just by reading reports and paperwork.
He said his goal was to visit all of the campuses before two weeks had gone by. He has now met his goal. Roark said he visited the Billings campus last week, Great Falls on Wednesday, and now MSU-Northern at Havre. He said he plans to visit the different campuses as often as possible.
Roark said his goal in these visits is to learn about the units of the university system.
"I don't come as an expert, I come as a pupil," he said.
Roark said he can already see that each member of the system has unique aspects as well as common aspects, and that programs for each campus will need to vary accordingly.
He said he sees his role as interim president as a facilitator and supporter of the different campuses and administrations. The two greatest challenges facing the university system now are the need to continue bringing the four campuses together in a cohesive organization and funding, Roark said.
He said the different units of the system need to work together in a cooperative effort. Roark said he has already seen cooperation between different units. He said he sees his main role to continue and enhance this process. If problems arose, he said, his job would be to resolve the problems and increase cooperation.
The current system is working, Roark said. He said he believes in facilitating the will to cooperate, rather than commanding it.
He said it's certainly possible to make all classes transferrable between different units of the university system. He said when he was president of the University of Wyoming the university and seven community colleges in the state worked successfully to do so.
Roark said he has been told the transfer of credits seems to be a small issue right now. Great strides seem to have been made in that direction, he said. He said he wants to talk to students to see their perspective before making any judgements on the issue.
Roark said he actively seeks communication with the students at the university system. He said while he was president at the University of Wyoming he regularly walked around the campus to visit with students, faculty and staff. He said when he did he knew as many students and service workers by name as he did faculty.
He intends to regularly provide information to the students about what is going on in the university system and at his office, he said.
Roark said while systems such as NorthNet are already in place to utilize technology for distance learning, the next step is to start educating over the worldwide web.
This would not be a replacement for current programs, he said, but simply the next step in the process. He said this technology has to be used by education systems or they will be missing an opportunity to further their mission, which is to educate.
Roark said he would support any programs to improve MSU-Northern. He said the difficulty is in making decisions how to act.
He said any university has to look at its programs. He said it is necessary to cut back any programs which are inadequate or no longer useful, and choose new programs which will be useful and attractive to students.
Roark said that efforts are already being made to increase recruitment and enrollment at the different campuses. He said that efforts will have to vary from one unit to another, because of the unique aspects of each school.
The recruitment efforts would have to be different at Great Falls' two year programs than at MSU-Northern's four year or graduate programs, Roark said.