UM President Announces Preliminary ‘Strategy for Distinction’ Plan

April 17, 2018

MISSOULA – The University of Montana released the draft of a proposed plan on April 17 that has major implications for the future of UM.

Titled “University of Montana Strategy for Distinction,” the preliminary document outlines ideas for creating a sustainable budget while setting the University on a path for future success and a return to growth.

The plan offers everything from a refreshed institutional mission statement to key strategies. It also suggests programs for reorganization, discontinuance and potential faculty member reductions.

“I believe this proposed plan offers a bold reimagining of the University of Montana,” UM President Seth Bodnar said. “This report represents a planning approach that has spanned two years. It began with our strategic vision, encompassed our academic prioritization process and now includes the work of our University Planning Committee.

“In all of this work, we have asked a critical question: How can we most effectively meet the needs of our students?”

The draft plan is online at A video message Bodnar prepared for students is online at Updates will be posted on the President’s Office website at

“While as a campus community we have exciting future work ahead, we also must make difficult decisions,” Bodnar said. “We cannot continue to do everything we do now and do it well. This means better aligning, focusing and prioritizing what we can do best, and curtailing or discontinuing what we cannot. Even as we face these transitions, we will remain focused on our students, providing them with clear learning pathways to graduation and the support they need.”

The draft plan calls for a reinvigoration of UM’s core education, and one key strategy would be emphasizing the University’s liberal arts education with something called the Innovative UM Core. This term would be used to describe to prospective students how a well-rounded curriculum from a flagship university like UM does more than train them for their first job. It trains them to succeed across multiple disciplines, helps them to learn and grow over the course of their careers and prepares them for jobs that may not even exist yet.

The plan suggests grouping UM into six communities of interdisciplinary excellence: artistic expression and communication; science and technology; business and entrepreneurship; environment and sustainability; health and human development; and justice, policy and public service.

The plan includes 14 preliminary recommendations. Four of those address updating UM’s administrative structure, such as combining Student Affairs with the Office for Student Success. Ten recommendations would affect UM’s colleges and professional schools. An example is replacing 23 department heads in UM’s College of Humanities and Sciences with 10 division/department heads. Also included are recommendations for estimated full-time-equivalent employee reductions.

Other preliminary recommendations include developing a holistic approach to student support and success, embracing UM’s connection to the surrounding region and developing robust place-based learning experiences that emphasize Montana’s natural setting and communities.

The suggested new UM mission statement follows:

“The University of Montana’s mission is to provide a high-quality and accessible education at a world-class research university. We shape global citizens who are creative and agile learners prepared to build and sustain communities. As Montana’s flagship university, we lead conversations that question and expand the frontiers of knowledge to tackle the world’s most complex challenges.”

UM officials stress that development of this preliminary plan will continue in the coming weeks and months. Suggestions are welcome online at



Contact: Paula Short, director of communications, UM Office of the President, 406-243-2311,