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Spring Semester 2011 Message to Campus

Dear Campus Colleagues,

Welcome to the New Year! With your help, 2011 will be an exciting and productive year for the University. I write today to inform you of several important projects that we will bring to completion during the Spring Semester.

Communications: We have established two new campus communications mechanisms so far. Weekly video updates provide up-to-date news or feature an aspect of the University that is of broad interest. I invite you to check out the updates at www.youtube.com/universityofmontana or www.umt.edu/president/videos/. Additionally, the new University Council has met three times so far and is scheduled to meet every other week throughout the semester. The dates, times, and agendas for the meetings are available online at www.umt.edu/committees/univcouncil.aspx. Members of the Council represent a broad distribution across campus as well as a few at-large members from the community, but the meetings are open to everyone and have been well attended. Each meeting includes a “University 101” component designed to educate attendees on some important aspect of the University; so far, the University’s budget and the Legislative process have been presented. In addition, each meeting presents an “issue” for discussion and includes an open comment/question period.

I will host three open forums during the Spring Semester on Fridays at 4:00, half an hour before the Faculty/Staff socials. These will be held in DHC 119 on February 11, March 18, and April 22. I hope you will attend. Let me also remind you of my office hours this semester, which are posted at www.umt.edu/president/officehours.aspx.

Finally, we are undertaking a Communications Review, assisted by a consultant, to determine how we can improve both internal and external communications. We expect to have a full communications plan in place this spring.

Planning and Assessment Driven Budgeting: We are reconfiguring our planning and budgeting process. The existing structure involving the Strategic Budget and Planning Committee will be replaced with an annual cyclic process that will improve clarity, transparency, and connectivity between the vital pieces of the process. Four distinct steps will each be overseen by a separate group: strategic planning development and review by the University Planning Committee, conversion of plans into budget by the University Budget Committee, oversight of implementation by the Council of Vice Presidents, and annual assessment by the University Assessment Committee. The collective membership of the committees will be broadly representative and will involve more people than in the past. A careful timeline will be associated with the annual cycle to ensure that each step is completed in a timely manner and that the “hand off” to the next step is clear and effective. A Web site with details of the cycle is “under construction”—I will provide the link as soon as it is available.

Accreditation and Comprehensive Strategic Plan: At the heart of an effective planning process is a comprehensive strategic plan. In the past year, we have made excellent progress on constructing “sector-level” plans—the Academic Strategic Plan and the Student Affairs Strategic Plan, for example. We are now consolidating those into a single plan that will serve as our guide for the next five years. The comprehensive plan will be available online for comment within the next month. I will forward the link as soon as it is available.

Concurrently, UM’s accrediting agency, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, has undertaken a major revision in both the standards by which the University is evaluated and the process through which the evaluation occurs. Instead of a major review every 10 years of the type successfully completed last spring, we will now participate in a continuous seven-year cycle in which we are in more or less constant communication with the NWCCU. Our first report in this new cycle is due on March 1. It requires the definition of mission, “core themes,” and indicators of progress. Our core themes are under active development and will coincide closely with the major strategic issues outlined in the comprehensive strategic plan. I encourage you to watch for draft documents regarding this effort.

Legislative Session: The legislative session in Helena is in full swing. Representativesfrom all four UM campuses—including campus leadership, students, faculty members, and private sector individuals—presented before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education yesterday, January 19. We will continue to focus on three major objectives: 1) a base budget supportive of excellence without shifting an undue financial burden onto students; 2) a pay plan for all University employees; and 3) a new facility for the College of Technology.

I send my thanks and appreciation to each of you for your contributions to the work of The University of Montana. I continue to be amazed by your accomplishments and by the gratitude of former students. One of the most pleasant surprises I have had as President is the nearly universal expression of enthusiasm for the future of the University.

Have a rewarding Spring Semester!

Sincerely,

Royce C. Engstrom
President

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