By Tim Leeds
Becoming the permanent chancellor at Montana State University-Northern hasn't changed Alex Capdeville's plans to set things in place to take Northern into the future.
"It isn't about me, my agenda, while I'm here," he said. "It's about where Northern needs to go."
When he came to Northern last fall as a two-year chancellor during the search for a permanent head for the university, he was looking for ways to increase Northern's enrollment and strengthen its programs. His appointment to the permanent position in May won't change that, he said in an interview this week.
Capdeville's plans for Northern include working to make the university more attractive to students in many areas. Those include:
Strengthening the programs Northern has to offer;
Improving resident life on the campus, including renovating existing facilities and building a new residence hall;
Finding money to build a new applied technology center;
Increasing ties with the community and cooperation with it.
This week Capdeville said Northern is working on long-term planning for the university to achieve those goals. Improving recruitment of students is an important part of that planning.
"Recruitment is a huge piece of it," he said.
Capdeville has already taken faculty and staff on two recruitment trips to high schools in the state, one in February and one in May. The groups talked to students and faculty and staff at the high schools and residents in the towns to try to attract more students to Northern.
Capdeville said many Montana students in the eastern part of the state have been leaving to go to college in North Dakota. He hopes to attract some of those students to Northern instead.
Another goal is to improve the on-campus life for students at Northern. Capdeville took the permanent chancellor position with a commitment from Montana State University-Bozeman that Bozeman will get behind Northern on that issue. Recruitment of students is affected by what kind of on-campus life a university offers the students, he said.
Some of the residence issues Capdeville plans to work on include renovating the student center, working on repairing the streets, renovating the classrooms and building a new residence hall.
Northern has already been working on improving the existing residence halls. For instance, the upstairs showers in one hall leaked to the ceilings of the rooms below. Capdeville said Northern has already done work to replace those systems and solve the problem.
Strengthening the programs at Northern is part of the planning. Capdeville said Northern will have to examine what programs are strong and what needs strengthening while planning for the future, and that Northern might have to refocus on some things while doing that planning.
"We need to adequately fund the programs we have," he said. "If some things have to get cut to accommodate that then that's going to happen."
At this point Capdeville said he doesn't know what will need to be done to accomplish that goal. The planning process is what will identify what changes need to be made.
Part of the process of strengthening those programs will be to focus more on the Havre campus. He said that while programs such as the campuses in Great Falls and Lewistown are strong parts of the university, focusing on the programs in Havre and strengthening them will also strengthen the programs outside of Havre.
One item Northern is working on to strengthen the university is the planned applied technology center. The 2001 Legislature approved $2 million for the center, and gave Northern the authority to raise $3 million more to build it. The original plan for the ATC was for the state to provide $4.25 million for a center, and Northern would raise other funds to make a comprehensive addition to the base project.
The ATC is planned to provide more up-to-date laboratory facilities and classrooms for the technology programs at Northern, and to provide a central location for the programs.
Capdeville said he will be in Washington this weekend to talk to Sens. Conrad Burns and Max Baucus and Rep. Denny Rehberg about using federal funds on the ATC project. The university is also working with businesses Northern has ties with, such as GE, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and Caterpillar, to see if those businesses will provide money for the project.
Capdeville said he also wants to improve Northern's relations with the community, "how we can do a better job in opening the campus to the community."
An example of work already done in that area is that the community theater group is taking over the theater in Cowan Hall at Northern.
Capdeville is advising other areas of the university to try to invite more people from the community onto campus. He hopes for more community involvement in the library and said people should feel welcome to work with the athletic department for events such as the Class C tournaments.
"I think that Northern ought to be a place that, when people have an event, whether it be an ag show or whatever it may be, that they think of having it at Northern," Capdeville said.