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UM News
February 13, 2013


Three top programs at The University of Montana – creative writing, organismal biology and ecology, and wildlife biology – recently were named Programs of National Distinction (PoND).

The three were selected by UM’s Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs for the honor, which aims to maintain or stimulate development of programs of national or world-class excellence.

“There are many strong programs at UM,” Provost Perry Brown said, “but our desire has been to identify those that have national distinction based upon several criteria and then to provide resources to assist these programs to enhance this distinction – to be among the very best in the nation.”

During autumn semester, more than 30 UM programs and departments submitted short funding proposals in a competitive contest. Units had to demonstrate how they qualify for PoND designation by addressing characteristics such as scholarly output, quality of students and educational outcomes. Programs also revealed how they influence policy, research, creative scholarship and education from the local to international levels.

Additionally, programs demonstrated how they help assist with the five strategic issues outlined in UM’s strategic plan, “UM 2020: Building a University for the Global Century,” which is online at They also outlined the projected use of financial resources to help maintain or enhance national distinction.

The three directors of the winning programs were enthusiastic about the recognition.

“UM’s Creative Writing Program is one of our nation’s oldest and most prestigious writing programs,” Director Judy Blunt said. “PoND status will afford us a competitive edge in terms of recruiting the most talented students and will help us maintain our place in the top tier of creative writing programs nationwide.”

“This recognition is a wonderful honor for all who have participated in the Wildlife Biology Program over the past 75 years,” Director Dan Pletscher said. “Les Pengelly, John Craighead and Phil Wright provided a tremendous legacy in wildlife conservation carried on today by our alumni and current faculty members such as Scott Mills, Tom Martin and Erick Greene. With this recognition at a time when wildlife and conservation are more important than ever, the best is yet to come.”

“Graduate students are the heart of the Organismal Biology and Ecology Program, and the resources infused via PoND funding will provide a diverse, rich array of improved funding and research opportunities for these students,” Director Bret Tobalske said. “PoND funding will also boost national and international activities in the OBE program in line with the University’s Global Leadership Initiative.”

The University will solicit more proposals in the future to allow other deserving programs the opportunity for sustained growth and development.


Additional contacts: Judy Blunt, Creative Writing Program director, 406-243-2275,; Dan Pletscher, Wildlife Biology Program director, 406-243-6364,; Bret Tobalske, Organismal Biology and Ecology Program director, 406-243-6631,




Contact: Perry Brown, UM provost, 406-243-4689,