- Heading into the 21st Century
- Fulfilling the Mission
- Achieving the Vision
- Areas for Further Study and Action
Conclusions: Heading into the 21st Century
Growth and change in any community provides the opportunity to challenge old notions, explore new relationships and stretch abilities. That dynamic is taking place at MSU Billings and will continue to do so. Using decisions made from assessment results, several significant changes have been made at the University since its last comprehensive review. Some changes are in reaction to changing expectations of students, some to take advantage of new technology and some as a result of the University Strategic Initiatives and its proactive stance in encouraging positive change through Continuous Quality Improvement. And because of all that, the University now views assessment and program review as part of its day-to-day existence and not simply a once-in-a-decade experience.
While several new and innovative programs have been added, the hallmark of the academic growth is the emergence of online courses that have blossomed to full programs through continual growth and development. The University continues to be a leader in Montana for online education and with implementation of Desire2Learn, will be able to assess student learning outcomes in online education at a new level.
Other outstanding accomplishments over the past 10 years include:
- Institutionalizing the concept of outcomes assessment
- Establishing an Academic Support Center (ASC)
- Moving the College of Professional Studies and Lifelong Learning downtown
- Initiating outreach and a facility in Red Lodge
- Continued outreach to Billings School District 2 to launch a dual credit pilot program
- Addition of new Health Sciences Building at the West Campus
- Locating the Information Commons in the Library with 85 computers for student use
- Incorporating ACT testing center on the West Campus
- Building the Cenex-MSU Billings Women’s Softball Field
- Development of a state-of-the-art, all-weather soccer field at the West Campus
- Continue to provide an indoor tennis facility for student and community use
- Partnering with the MSU Billings Foundation to develop a new home for the College of Business
- Construction of a parking garage
- Replacing the McMullen bridge
- Completion of landscaping of Peaks-to-Plains Park
- Graduating 51 licensed Native American teachers
- Filing of the first University patent
- Establishing an office of Online operations
- New revenue streams through successful external grants and a $30 million capital campaign
- Development of the College of Allied Health Professions
- Strenthening ourteach efforts in the community, region and state
- Strengthening of Native American Studies Program and services
- Implementation of the Voluntary System of Accountability university portrait to ensure better visibility and accountability
- Development of unique 2+2 pathway programs
- Celebration of the University’s 75th anniversary
Additional achievements are outlined in the University Milestones document at the beginning of this self study.
Substantial increases in funds and new revenue streams have been developed through increased tuition, establishment of an instructional equipment fee, a network services fee to meet technological needs and the assessment fees to support the University assessment system. Funding sources are identified for new programs prior to their implementation.
The University procured major grants exceeding $8 million for two years — AY 2005-2006 and AY 2006-2007. The MSU Billings Foundation conducted a successful comprehensive capital campaign — People, Pride and Promise: The Campaign for Excellence at Montana State University Billings — with commitments of over $30 million. Changes in revenue streams and internal allocations support University accomplishments supporting the motto, Access & Excellence.
Through multiple measures Montana State University Billings regularly assesses each component of its four-part Mission — (1)Excellent Teaching, (2) Support for Individual Learning, (3)Engagement in Civic Responsibility, (4) Community Enhancement.
Each division and unit of the University works in concert with Academic Affairs to support, promote and accomplish Excellent Teaching (Mission—1). Facilities Services provides safe learning environments for students. Information Technology assures state-of-the art classrooms. Computer facilities are upgraded regularly as are classrooms with multimedia capability. Every full-time faculty member is provided with a computer and part-time faculty have computer access. Each department is provided with an instructional budget. The University also supports excellent teaching through providing teaching assistants and lab assistants in some classes to help students and faculty.
Montana State University Billings seeks to retain, advance-in-rank, and tenure faculty who demonstrate excellence in their contributions to the University and in their future potential. Excellent Teaching is required of all faculty with instructional responsibilities and is therefore assessed on a regular basis through guidelines and provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and Vocational Technical Educators of Montana contracts.
Annual faculty performance reviews, student assessment of faculty teaching, peer reviews, surveys of present and past students, student placements/success and employer satisfaction surveys provide evidence of teaching excellence. The outcomes of these assessments result in feedback for faculty toward continual professional development.
Faculty reviews differ according to contractual differences between East and West Campuses but both require extensive documentation of Teaching Excellence including, but not limited to, student assessments of faculty teaching and peer reviews of classroom/online performance at the east campus.
The West Campus does not include peer reviews; however, the VTEM Union Management Committee has appointed an ad hoc committee to review the COT’s evaluation, promotion, and tenure review policies and procedures. In addition, since effective teaching encompasses both mastery of appropriate bodies of knowledge and communication of that knowledge to students, documentation demonstrating continuing professional development and scholarly activities is required of all instructional faculty. Scholarship is evident in faculty curriculum vitae as is faculty professional service to the University and to the larger community.
At the East Campus, faculty mentors are assigned to all new faculty, as well as, to faculty in need of improvement in teaching. Plans-of-improvement are outlined and implemented with faculty as needed. Departments also appoint mentors for part-time faculty. Mentors conduct peer reviews, review syllabi and provide helpful feedback for effective teaching while maintaining consistency among multiple sections of a course. Again, the West Campus VTEM Union Management Committee has appointed an ad hoc committee to review the COT’s evaluation, promotion, and tenure review policies and procedures.
The University celebrates faculty excellence annually through a Faculty Excellence banquet. Faculty achievement awards are presented to outstanding faculty selected by a committee consisting of faculty, administration, student and community representatives.
Years-of-service awards are presented to faculty for every five years of service as determined by the Office of Human Resources. The Awards Committee’s assessment of its criteria for determining faculty excellence revealed that additional awards needed to be instituted. Consequently awards for West Campus faculty leadership, part-time faculty and faculty on other than tenure-track appointments were presented for the first time in spring 2007.
Tenured East Campus faculty who exceed expectation and perform meritoriously based upon their five-year post-tenure reviews earn a bonus. A new award, The Walter and Charlotte Pippenger Excellence In Innovation Award, for which both faculty and staff are eligible, is presented at the fall faculty/staff meeting.
While recognition activities point to the University’s commitment to Excellent Teaching, the University community recognizes that excellence cannot be defined; rather it can be demonstrated and observed. The University community has not engaged in a discussion or come to consensus regarding indicators that define “excellence” as a descriptor of teaching. This discussion among all campus constituencies could result in all members of the University having a common understanding of Teaching Excellence.
Such an understanding could guide faculty performance reviews, increase validity of student assessments of faculty teaching and provide guidance in preparing students for their post-University lives.
Individual student learning and support for all members of the University reaching their individual potential are core to the MSU Billings Purpose: To assure that all members of the University community reach their individual potential — and Support for Individual Learning (Mission—2).
Business Process Redesign assures that the administrative infrastructure is both effective and efficient in providing necessary services for students. Beginning with incoming freshmen or transfer students, the University supports student readiness for post secondary achievement through the Academic Support Center and the Student Advising Center.
Student Opportunity Services (SOS/TRiO), Disability Support Services (DSS), International Studies, and Multicultural Student Services provide additional student support as necessary and appropriate. Faculty nurture professional relationships with their advisees in order to support student growth. University programs are aligned with state/national standards and undergo specialty area program reviews to assure currency and vitality. Annual program reports confirm achievement of programmatic/departmental goals. The University provides opportunities for employees in its community through reduced tuition, faculty and staff development opportunities, Information Technology training, continuing education, the fall Conference, and optional webinars or seminars.
MSU Billings students are members of other communities than the University community, and lead active, engaged lives in and outside the classroom. The majority of MSU Billings students enroll in post secondary education nontraditionally. They live off campus, work full-time, have family responsibilities and attend school part-time. The University has responsibility for recognizing students’ multiple life priorities and for encouraging their attention to these priorities. The University goes beyond local Engagement in Civic Responsibility (Mission—3), however, by supporting individual student understanding of their global responsibilities through opportunities for international travel.
The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics at MSU Billings benefits the student-athletes, the general student body, the academic community, and the community of Billings and beyond in many ways. The head coaches and assistant coaches work each day with their respective student-athletes, perhaps most visibly, in assisting them with their psychomotor development (physical skill development) as applied to their sport. They create the means by which student-athletes can improve and excel at the highest level, both individually and as a team, to compete at the NCAA Division II level in a highly competitive conference. Coaches help studentathletes train their bodies and their minds so they can become and stay healthy and fit (organic development), something they can maintain, if they wish, their entire lives. In addition, planned activities and strategies to help student-athletes grow, develop, and flourish in the affective and cognitive domains are implemented regularly by coaches across the time each student-athlete is at MSU Billings. Coaches can and do serve as roles models for their student-athletes and they know, above anything and everything else, each student-athlete attends the University to get an education and graduate.
The remainder of the general student body benefits by having a stimulating athletics program on campus. Student-athletes from a variety of backgrounds and countries contribute much to the university environment, in their classes, in the residence halls, and in other University events. Athletic games and events bring an excitement to the general student body and the community can rally around, enjoy, and support NCAA competition
MSU Billings student-athletes contribute many hours each year in various volunteer and community service activities, such as Habitat for Humanity. This brings a spirit of service to the University and community. Since virtually 100% of the approximately 230 student-athletes were recruited by MSU Billings coaches to attend the University, almost none would be here if they were not competing in their respective sports. The University presence provides for larger Community Enhancement (Mission—4). MSU Billings, however, recognizes its responsibility for thoughtful and deliberate community enhancement. Each college and many other units in the University have advisory boards with community representation. The College of Professional Studies and Lifelong Learning was moved to the Downtown Campus location in order to better serve the Billings business community. The College of Business houses the Center for Applied Economic Research and the Montana Business Incubator. The College of Technology plays a key role in immediate workforce development for Billings. The College of Education has formed a partnership with Friendship House on Billings South Side. The College of Arts and Sciences partners with the Billings Clinic in a regional Science and Technology Exposition. CAS faculty offer theatre, music and art performances and exhibits for the community. The University implemented an Office of Alumni Relations during AY 2006-2007. This office provides a link between the majority of MSU Billings alumni/ae, who live in the immediate area or throughout Montana, and the University campus to support local and state community enhancement.
The University Vision is that the institution be recognized in four areas:
- Teaching and Learning
- Translating Knowledge into Practice
- Researching for the Future
- Accepting Leadership for Development Beyond University Boundaries.
One means for fulfilling the University Mission and for achieving the University vision is through recognition by accrediting organizations—both NWCCU regional accreditation and accreditation through specialty area organizations. Accreditation serves as a foundation for fulfilling the Mission and achieving the Vision.
Each of the NWCCU standards reinforces one or more aspects of the University Mission and its Vision.
Standard One, Institutional Mission and Goals, Planning and Effectiveness, is self explanatory. Compliance with this standard assures that the University regularly reviews its Mission and Vision with attention to achievement or progress toward components. MSU Billings reviewed/revised its Purpose, Mission, Vision, Core Values and Strategic Initiatives within three years of the NWCCU visit. The University implemented a regular schedule of required studies and surveys to assess student satisfaction, student and faculty engagement, alumni/ae satisfaction, employee (staff, faculty, administration) satisfaction; and employer satisfaction. Results of the surveys have guided the CQI process. The Mission Document demonstrates that MSU Billings in grounded in its current Mission and future Vision.
Standard Two, Educational Program and its Effectiveness, is the heart of the academy. Through programs, faculty and students teach and learn. Through programs — academic, athletic, continuing education, workforce development, international opportunities — the University realizes it Core Purpose: To assure that all members of the University community reach their individual potential.
Standard Three, Students, demonstrates that the University maintains focus on the second of the three essential components of the teaching-learning process. Students, faculty and programs are the necessary if not sufficient parts of higher education. The University must provide excellent services for students, as well as, insuring that students have voice in their education. Faculty guide students in Translating Knowledge into Practice and guide their understanding of Accepting Leadership for Development Beyond University Boundaries. The University recognizes and values student involvement through their participation on committees and boards, with recruitment and retention efforts and student organization and administration of the ASMSU Billings Student Senate. Student voice is assured through both faculty contracts — CBA and VTEM.
Standard Four, Faculty, focuses on the third essential component of education. In compliance with this standard, faculty demonstrate Excellent Teaching and Support for Individual Learning. They engage in Researching for the Future through their individual professional development (West Campus) and scholarly development and contribution (East Campus). Faculty scholarly activity promotes Community Enhancement through basic or applied research, performance and exhibits of original works. Faculty service to the University and to the public models Engagement in Civic Responsibility and Accepting Leadership for Development Beyond University Boundaries.
Community Enhancement is again addressed through compliance with Standard Five, Library and Information Resources. The University Library with branches on both East and West Campuses serves as a resource for the Billings community beyond the University boundaries. The Library is essential for Excellent Teaching, for Teaching and Learning and for Researching for the Future. Through Information Resources, the University collects and maintains the data sources necessary for internal research, self analysis and Continuous Quality Improvement.
Standard Six, Governance and Administration and Standard Nine, Institutional Integrity address the Core Values of Montana State University Billings — Integrity, Educational Excellence, Student Achievement, Community of Learners, Meaningful Engagement and Responsiveness. Fulfilling the requirements of Standards Six and Nine assures that the infrastructure is in place for achieving a University experience characterized by Access and Excellence. Administratively, MSU Billings is governed by the policies and procedures of the Montana Board of Regents of Higher Education. Locally, within the University community, governance is shared through the Student, Staff and Faculty Senates, the East and West Campus Faculty Associations, the ad hoc Task Forces Partners for Change, Provost Council Retreat, Topics, FACC student groups, the Chancellor’s Cabinet, the Provost Council and the Administrative Services Team. Educational Excellence and Student Achievement require the Community of Learners, Meaningful Engagement and Responsiveness that can be operationalized only through administration with integrity and governance empowering all.
Standard Seven, Finance, makes possible the optimal higher educational experience. MSU Billings has a longstanding reputation for stability and excellence in financial management. It has consistently operated within annual budgets, annual audits have found no irregularities and the few suggestions made by auditors have been addressed. MSU Billings regularly maintains a balanced budget and the enrollment reserve model, pioneered by Chancellor Sexton, has become a requirement for all units of the system. Financial personnel have the knowledge, experience and institutional history to assure this strength continues, as well as, to assist unit administrators with managing their budgets.
Standard Eight, Physical Resources, demonstrates that MSU Billings continues to maintain excellent facilities. East, West, and Downtown Campuses have wellgroomed exteriors and clean interiors, and provide safe learning environments. The University has made major commitments to the following:
- Computer equipment for faculty instruction and for student learning
- •A Downtown Campus that serves as a connection between the business community and the University
- Completion of a 50,000-square-foot Health Sciences Building at the West COT Campus
- Evolution of the West Campus programs and facilities from a College of Technology to a Community College serving the Billings area and preparing students for the rigor of East Campus baccalaureate and graduate programs
- Initiation of a sixth College — the College of Allied Health Professions — that links the medical community with the University
- Continue to address ADA issues as they arise.
- Remain vigilant to keep the new $12M Science & Technology Center at the forefront of the Long-Range Building Program.
- Through biennial customer surveys regarding facilities and services and through biennial site assessments, Facility Services assures the physical health and safety of the University environment for all constituencies.
Through the self-study process that has resulted in the 2008 Montana State University Billings Institutional Report, the University discerned the following areas in need of further study and action:
MSU Billings understands that student success and student learning takes place inside and outside the classroom. The ability to assess and measure that success is imperative. The University has embraced the concept of Continuous Quality Improvement, but the evolving process is more mature in some areas than others. That shortfall is recognized.
The challenge now and in the future is to identify/refine the desired outcomes, develop a systemic process that is valid and reliable to collect the appropriate data and then aggregate/disaggregate that data. From that point, MSU Billings can use that data to make informed decisions.
Demonstration of Excellence in Teaching
MSU Billings is able to demonstrate teaching excellence through many measures — faculty performance reviews, student assessments of faculty teaching, current and past student satisfaction surveys, post graduation continuing education or employment and employer satisfaction surveys. The University community has not engaged in a discussion or come to consensus regarding indicators that define “excellence” as a descriptor of teaching. This discussion among all campus constituencies could result in all members of the University having a common understanding of Teaching Excellence. Such an understanding would guide faculty performance reviews, increase validity of student assessments of faculty teaching and provide guidance in preparing students for their post-University lives.
Student recruitment, retention and service
Student recruitment and retention are topics being addressed through two of the four Partners-for-Change Task Forces. Maintaining a strong, diverse body of academically capable students is a chronic issue for Institutions of Higher Education. Once the students are on campus, providing high quality, user friendly, efficient and effective student services is a perennial challenge. A third Partners-for-Change Task Force focused on Advising, only one of many student services of the University. Continual and consistent attention to recruitment, retention and student services will be essential for the growth of MSU Billings.
Program currency for and relevance to workforce development
In an era of attention to two-year post-secondary education, MSU Billings must continue to address the currency of Academic Foundations, major and minor programs of study and the University’s role in state/area workforce development. Only through continuing analysis of the role of the academy for individual growth and for community enhancement will MSU Billings remain vital to Billings, to Montana and beyond. Program review, revision and development is a constant on the Provost Council agenda and was one of four topics addressed at the summer 2007 Provost Council Retreat.
COT evolution to a Community College
Closely tied to the program issue and also a topic at the summer 2007 Provost Council Retreat is the evolution of the College of Technology into a Community College. The potential benefits for the Billings community and for the University are many. Billings does not have a community college to support students as they transition from high school to post-secondary education. For many Montana students, college is a huge step and many are the first generation of their families to take it. Transforming the West Campus as a community college would serve as a feeder school to the East Campus that would be able to focus on upper division majors and graduate education. This division of responsibilities would allow for a more clearly defined allocation of resources. In addition, the evolution of the West Campus to a community college would ultimately provide the greater region with increased opportunities for workforce training and retraining. The evolution is not without challenges, however. Duplication of Academic Foundations courses, differentiation of funding sources, and sharing or reassigning faculty are only a few of the issues to be addressed.
Assessment system data storage, retrieval and use
MSU Billings is collecting data in many ways and in many formats. Long term data maintenance has not been addressed. Deciding which data are essential for analysis and response is not an easy process. Response to the analyses requires consensus of multiple constituencies. The University needs a leader for its Continuous Quality Improvement Office. The present system of co-chairs for the CQI Steering Committee is only a temporary solution. Increasing reporting requirements from the federal and state levels, increasing demands for accountability from the public and increasingly stringent requirements by accrediting organizations mean that Institutions of Higher Education must focus resources on long term assessment processes.
Transition of eLearning platform
MSU Billings is a leader in online instructional delivery in Montana and until 2008, used eCollege for delivery of online instruction. Incubated in the CPSLL, online course and program delivery has continued to grow since 1996. Every MSU Billings College now offers instruction through this form of distance delivery. eLearning is the fourth Partners-for-Change Task Force. This group has wrestled with issues such as faculty compensation, governance responsibility for eDelivery— does this format constitute a program or a delivery format for programs?—faculty development and student integrity and safety. In response to increasing student demand for online course and program delivery, recommendations of the eLearning Taskforce an office of online learning operations was established and staffed with a Director and a pedagogy expert to support faculty with online instruction. The University side of technical assistance was transferred from the CPSLL to IT fall 2006. In spring 2008, as a result of a two year review of IT contracts in the State of Montana, the 4 campuses of Montana State University (MSU) collaborated to adopt a single system, Desire2 Learn (D2W). Faculty teaching online and students will have to be trained to use the new platform D2L that will replace the current e-platform.
Budget foundations, allocations, deliberations, restrictions
As with the majority of Institutions of Higher Education, MSU Billings struggles within financial constraints. The Montana Legislature funds the Montana University System according to a resident student full-time equivalent model. Because of the nature of the MSU Billings student body, this formula has never been in the University’s best interest. The Board of Regents is exploring alternative funding models but the reality is that the state general fund cannot be expected to fully fund the cost of higher education. Even if Montana, as a state, had surplus funds, state politics are such that higher education is not likely to be high priority in the eyes of the legislators. Revenue Streams, internal and external, was a topic at the summer 2007 Provost Council Retreat. To survive and flourish in Montana, MSU Billings will have to assume responsibility for its own fiscal health and stability.
Most of the world operates on calendars that have little to do with the 19th century agrarian cycles of planting and harvest. Demands of our students, demands of the public and demands of industry will require MSU Billings to think and plan creatively to meet increasingly diverse needs.
Development of sustainable revenue streams
Overall state support of higher education has declined in the past decade. While the Montana Legislature capped tuition in 2007 to help keep higher education affordable for students, rising energy costs, personnel costs and other factors requires MSU Billings to find new revenue streams to offset the loss of tuition revenue.
Address adult learning needs
Montana has one of the lowest participation rates of adult learners in the nation. According to data from the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, parttime undergraduate enrollment in Montana postsecondary units for students as a percent of population of residents between the ages of 25 and 44 is 3.8% — dead last among WICHE states. At the same time, our state has many high-paying jobs that
go unfilled – in technology, health care, construction, manufacturing, for example – due to a shortage of appropriate education and trained workers. New strategies must be developed to tackle this problem so that more adult learners can participate in higher education to meet employer needs.
A leaky education pipeline
The policy and procedural challenges for MSU Billings in the future are multifaceted. Montana is facing an alarming trend in educational attainment. With public high school graduation rates dropped to 79% in 2004.,the state is experiencing low college participation rates.
A major demographic shift has been taking place in Montana over the past decade and will likely continue into the near future. The overall number of 6-18 year-olds is declining precipitously in Montana. The Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education estimates that in the next decade, there will be 1,500 fewer graduating high school seniors per year than we had in 2007. At the same time, the state’s economy, like the rest of the nation, is facing a serious shortage of skilled workers during the next two decades.
The cost of postsecondary education has outstripped the ability of Montanans to access higher education. While the Board of Regents and Montana Legislature in 2007 made strides to cap tuition and provide for more tuition assistance, needs still exist. Montanans must now pay a 40% higher share of their incomes for resident tuition and fees than residents of the other western states. The average student debt for a Montana university graduate is $20,000 and rising. At the same time, inflationary costs continue to outpace any minor increases in student FTE-generated revenue. In the minds of many educational leaders, the only way to tackle this shortfall is for increased levels of state support.
Looking to the future
MSU Billings has started a number of initiatives that will help sustain the University’s effectiveness in the future. Vigilance will be required in the next several years to continually evaluate their effectiveness, build new partnerships and advance them. Some of those endeavors include initiatives to:
- Address key workforce shortages.
- Bridge gaps between higher education and the K-12 system to seal the cracks in the educational pipeline.
- Upgrade equipment, infrastructure and cutting edge technologies to enhance teaching and learning experiences.
- Support applied research/technological innovation.
- Sustain growth in graduate programs.
- Continue to build the international studies program.
- • Develop the strategies to best meet child care and housing needs for udents.
- Develop an infrastructure to meet the needs of a more diverse student body.
- Find the best strategies to meet the growing needs of a large adult learner demographic.
- Create a comprehensive long-range auxiliary plan that will include residential space on the East, West and Downtown campuses, upgraded student union/bookstore space, and student-owned recreation facilities. New facilities at the west campus will include childcare facilities.
- Office of Housing and Residential Life and the Office of Community Involvement will create, implement, and assess living-learning environments at the University.