By Tim Leeds
Dr. Alex Capdeville has accepted the position of chancellor of Montana State University-Northern for a two-year fixed term, pending approval by the board of regents during their next meeting.
"I like to get things done and move ahead," Capdeville said during a community meeting on the university campus Wednesday, "and there's some things here that need to be done."
Capdeville, who has been CEO of the Helena College of Technology (COT) since 1978, visited the university campus with Dr. Terry Roark, interim president of Montana State University, and Rolf Groseth, the executive assistant to the president.
Capdeville spent the day with faculty, administration and students of MSU-Northern, and held a open meeting with the community from 2 to 3 p.m. in Donaldson Commons on the university campus.
Capdeville, a graduate of Northern Montana College and a former Havre High School teacher, answered questions about many campus issues during the community meeting. He said the way to deal with funding difficulties is by increasing enrollment. With more students comes more funding, he said.
MSU-Northern had an accumulated budget deficit of about $300,000 last spring due to a gradual decline in enrollment.
He said markets have to be created to attract more students, which must be done by reallocating existing funds. The institution doesn't receive any additional money until it has increased enrollment, he said.
The Helena COT has had a 53 percent enrollment increase under Capdeville's 22 years of leadership.
Capdeville said one improvement would be by taking advantage of "great opportunities in Great Falls." He said while the long term future of MSU-Northern has to be in Havre, much could be done by cooperation with and recruitment from the campuses in Great Falls.
He said greater work with COT's will also help MSU-Northern. He said articulation agreements are not enough, and faculty should work with faculty to make "two plus two" agreements so students transferring from COT's can be certain they will not have to retake similar coursework they have already covered. He said MSU-Northern should also do more recruitment from the COT's.
Capdeville said there should also be more direct recruiting from the high schools. He said he took faculty from the Helena COT to visit 51 high schools in May, where they visited with students and faculty from the schools.
He said another priority would be increasing reciprocity with institutions in Canada. He said there is a large student population there that could be utilized to increase MSU-Northern's enrollment.
Capdeville said the residence hall and campus life at MSU-Northern need improvement.
"You need a campus life attractive to students," he said, "I think you've fallen behind on that here."
Capdeville said moving forward on the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education accreditation is a major issue. He said he knows staff at the other MSU campuses who could be a great help in the search.
Capdeville, who grew up on a ranch at Opheim, said one of MSU-Northern's great strengths is providing teachers for small schools. He said most people from Missoula, for example, who graduate from UM-Missoula wouldn't take a job in Opheim, while many MSU-Northern graduates will fill that niche.
He said he believes in a shared governance system of management, collecting people's input to make decisions. He said he is willing to share the governance of the institution as long as the people he's sharing it with are willing to share the responsibility. He said at some point, though, the chancellor has to make decisions and move forward.
"I don't think I have all the answers," he said, "but I have some ideas."
He said MSU-Northern has good people, is a good institution. He said the technical programs, education programs and nursing programs are especially strong.
Capdeville said that while MSU-Northern's liberal arts programs are currently working mainly in a support role for the university's successful technical programs, the liberals arts are essential to any four-year institution.