MISSOULA – In celebration of her birthday and the 53rd anniversary of her starting as a freshman at the University of Montana, UM President Sheila Stearns encouraged strong action from the “We are Montana” crowd attending the Aug. 30 Employee Convocation.
Addressing a crowd of staff and faculty members in the University Center Ballroom, Stearns urged attendees to act as statewide ambassadors to promote UM, to assist with shaping the University’s strategic vision, and to redouble efforts to help with student recruitment and retention.
She also led employees in a toast to celebrate three recent major accomplishments by UM: earning a record $88 million in research funding, receiving a record $84.5 million from donors and private support, and UM’s recent reaccreditation by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Faculty members earning promotions or tenure were acknowledged during the event, and Stearns also lauded the opening of UM’s new Missoula College Building, located just across the Clark Fork River from the central campus. And she hinted that UM’s freshmen enrollment should be flat or even slightly up after several downturn years.
She prompted employees to continually advocate for higher education and assist with UM’s New Strategic Plan, titled “Creating Change Together.” The main “strategic opportunities” of that plan are to engage students where they are, invest in people, partner with
She said enrollment and budget issues remain the most pressing concerns. The president said the University now spends 85 percent of its budget on salaries, and that number should be in the lower-70-percent range to create a fiscally healthy organization.
Stearns said UM is undergoing an Academic Program and Administrative Services Prioritization process to analyze and evaluate each University program. APASP committee members may identify programs that need to be modified, reduced, or grown and developed. All units at the University are now working to provide materials to the APASP committee, and Stearns said more campus evaluators will be recruited to complete the project.
She said the search for a permanent UM president is ongoing and proceeding well. She spoke fondly for UM and the future.
“This is a place I came to love and continue to love,” Stearns said. “Our first president said of the University ‘It shall prosper.’ I’m here to say it has, it shall and it will.”