The story of Montana State University Billings is one of community. A community of learners. A community of educators. An institution that is part of a thriving, supportive community.
While that can imply many things, at the core it means that Montana State University Billings (MSU Billings) is a dynamic, evolving student-centered institution that works to assure Access & Excellence at all levels.
MSU Billings has undergone some major growth since its last comprehensive accreditation review. As with growth on a personal level, MSU Billings’ growth has been one full of discovery and change, but it also places the University in a unique position to positively affect student learning outcomes, enhance teaching and research opportunities and respond to regional workforce challenges in the 21st century.
Therefore, it is hoped that readers of this self-study report view it not as a singular slice of time and place, but as part of an evolutionary story with connections at different levels.
MSU Billings is a public Masters University (Carnegie classification, 2006) dedicated to serving the educational and workforce needs of Montanans by providing high-quality undergraduate and graduate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, health, human services and technology. In response to a plea from citizens for an institution of higher education in Central or Eastern Montana, Eastern Montana State Normal School was established in 1927, the fifth unit of the Montana University System. The institution evolved into Eastern Montana College of Education in 1949 and into Eastern Montana College in 1965. In 1994, the Montana University System was restructured, and the institution changed its name to MSU Billings in 1995.
MSU Billings is the third largest unit of the Montana University System, which is governed through the state constitution by a seven-member Board of Regents appointed by the Governor. In 1994, the Board of Regents merged the 11 state institutions into a single system, the Montana University System (MUS). That system has two subsystems: Montana State University in Bozeman and the University of Montana in Missoula. Units of the Montana State University subsystem are in Bozeman, Billings, Havre and Great Falls.
In July 2006, the Board of Regents adopted a comprehensive strategic plan intended to define goals and set the priorities for higher education in the state of Montana. Those goals are to:
- Increase the educational attainment of all Montanans;
- Assist in the expansion and improvement of the economy;
- Improve institutional efficiency and effectiveness.
Strategic planning is done, academic programs are reviewed and administrative decisions at MSU Billings are made with those system goals in mind.
In July 2008, the Montana Board of Regents began discussions and planning regarding two-year education in Montana. The strategies that come from those discussions will have impacts on MSU Billings and especially the College of Technology.
As an integral part of a rapidly growing community, MSU Billings is spread over 118.5 acres, comprises multiple campuses, employs more than 900 full-time and part-time people, is the fourth largest employer in Yellowstone County (with an annual payroll in excess of $18 million), and enrolls over 4,700 undergraduate and graduate students, including nearly 1,100 at its two-year College of Technology (the West Campus). For the eighth consecutive year, MSU Billings has been ranked as one of the nation’s “Best Colleges” for Western Regional Tier 3 undergraduate through master’s level academics by U.S. News and World Report in the latest edition of America’s Best Colleges 2007.
When Eastern Montana State Normal School was established, Billings’ population was 15,000. Today as the University celebrates its 80 years of excellence, Billings’ population exceeds 110,000. While the University continues to be a regional university, the changing student body, community demographics and increasing adult population of the Billings metropolitan region pose new academic and workforce training challenges as the University shares more and more characteristics with urban universities. MSUB serves its core purpose — to assure that all members of the University community have the opportunity to reach their individual potential — and provides a University experience characterized by its four-part mission:
- Excellent Teaching.
- Support for Individual Learning.
- Engagement in Civic Responsibility.
- Intellectual, Cultural, Social and Economic Community Enhancement.
Since its early days as Eastern Montana College, MSU Billings has been an integral part of the Billings community and prides itself on being a student-centered learning environment. The University continues to nurture a longstanding tradition of educational access, teaching excellence, civic engagement and community enhancement in an urban setting. The relationship between the community and the University continues to be strong, with a pattern of growing support for student scholarships, academic programs and University-wide infrastructure, equipment and technology. Strong evidence of that support in recent years includes:
- Successful completion in 2006 through the MSU Billings Foundation of a $30 million capital campaign led by dozens of local organizations and business leaders.
- Contributions to support the purchase of land that is now home to a new $11 million, 50,000 square-foot College of Technology Health Science Building.
- Volunteer service on many program and college advisory boards.
- Continued advocacy of MSU Billings at public- and private-sector functions.
Key outcomes of the monumental capital campaign are new endowments, increases in scholarship awards and funding for faculty development, research and scholarly activities in areas of Graduate Studies, International Studies, Civic Engagement, Graduate Scholarships and Assistantships, Service Learning, Instructional Innovation Technology, Diversity Initiatives, the University Honors Program, and the Cooperative Education program.
Since its last comprehensive review, the University has taken great strides to enhance educational, training and outreach opportunities that positively position itself to meet the varying and complex demands of the 21st century. In 1999, the University began offering online programs and courses that have made the University a leader across the state by serving a record number of students in online enrollments (3,107 students took at least one online course in 2007-2008 for a total of 9,142 individual course enrollments). With the new addition of the College of Education building (2000), the $3 million renovation of the Liberal Arts Building (2002), the establishment of the College of Allied Health Professions (2004), the opening of the MSU Billings Outreach office in Red Lodge, Mont., (2004), a $1 million renovation (2004) and the $11 million Health Science Building completed (2007) at the College of Technology, and the current renovations to facilitate one-stop student services in McMullen Hall, the University is positioned with state-of-the-art facilities and outstanding leadership, faculty, staff and courses to offer its programs and services to our students and the community.
The opening of the Peaks to Plains Park in 1999 added to the beauty of the campus, and the first family housing units during the same year have provided residences for students with families. An Academic Support Center (2001) and William R. Lowe Childcare and Enrichment Center (2001) have positively impacted the learning environment by filling tutoring and childcare needs of students that in turn improves learning outcomes.
MSU Billings has long been known for leadership in higher education and the last decade continued that trend. In 2002, the College of Education received perfect scores from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and in 2003, the National Award for Best Practice in Support of Teacher Education from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), and Chancellor Ronald Sexton received the 2006 Distinguished Leadership Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).
That kind of leadership encourages and inspires others. For example, in 2006, the University had a record year in grant and sponsored program receipts totaling $8.5 million; in 2007, the University filed for its first-ever patent, and the completion of the $30 million capital campaign included the largest-ever charitable donation of $1.4 million to the University, made by the Sam E. and Judith McDonald family.
Concurrently, our students received numerous academic accolades and our faculty formal recognition for their scholarly activity, teaching and service. To name a few:
- In 2004, a senior Marketing student and a senior Accounting student authored the business plan that netted the pair a first-place win at the 15th Annual John Ruffatto Montana Business Plan Competition at the University of Montana;
- A Business faculty member and a Communication faculty member and their students won four coveted Gold Addy Awards, a Silver Addy and a Bronze Addy for the “Open Your Eyes” public service marketing campaign (Addy Awards are the advertising industry’s most prestigious annual awards, given to advertising, production and media-industry professionals). The MSU Billings students were the only students in 2007 to win an Addy in Montana.
- Jacquelyn Weitz, a Piano • Performance graduate, was chosen as one of 30 students from across the globe – the only student from the United States – to compete in the Young Artists’ Competition of the Netherlands in 2006;
- Ted Wilson was the recipient of the 2007 Montana Academy of Sciences Best Research Scientist Award and was subsequently honored at the Ideas Montana Medicine (IMM) Conference with the Young Researcher award.
- In 2004, Reno Charette, Director of the Big Horn Teacher Project at MSU Billings, and in 2008, Dr. Jeff Sanders, Associate Professor of Native American Studies, were named “Indian Educator of the Year” by the Montana Indian Education Association;
- Four faculty in 2004 (Dr. Matthew Benacquista, Dr. Ernesto Randolfi, Dr. Brian Dillon, and Dr. Jeffrey Sanders), one in 2006 (Dr. Matt McMullen) and one in 2007 (Dr. Susan Barfield) were Fulbright Scholars;
- In 2008, Dr. Linda Christensen received a lifetime achievement award from the Montana Council of Exceptional Children.
MSU Billings defines its instructional niche in the higher education market through its core values, which dictate its mission and drive the University’s strategic initiatives. Capitalizing on the expertise of 157 instructional faculty, 108 of whom have doctoral degrees appropriate to their fields, the University has developed programs that enhance student learning outcomes.
MSU Billings students make connections between the breadth of the common body of knowledge of Academic Foundations and the depth of professional, disciplinespecific knowledge. MSU Billings students distinguish between the acquisition of knowledge and the generation of knowledge. MSU Billings students relate their roles as stakeholders in their education to their roles as socially responsible, reflective citizens in the community and in the state. Therefore, the instructional mission of MSU Billings is further refined to include the following components:
- Emphasis on the centrality of the liberal arts and sciences as an academic foundation to undergraduate and graduate education.
- Integration of instruction with research and creative activity.
- Promotion of interdisciplinary educational opportunities.
- Development of critical thinking and effective communication.
- Multicultural and global engagement.
- International Studies Programs.
- Development of workforce capacity by providing top-quality learning opportunities and services
- Meeting a variety of career choices and customer needs by being responsive, flexible and market-driven.
The Chancellor is the Chief Executive Officer of MSU Billings and reports directly to the President of Montana State University in Bozeman. The University comprises three major divisions, each with its own Vice Chancellor — Academic Affairs, Administrative Services and Student Affairs. Five additional units have directors who report directly to the Chancellor — Alumni Relations, the Office of Grants and Sponsored Programs, Intercollegiate Athletics, University Relations/ Marketing and KEMC Yellowstone Public Radio.
The Academic Affairs division has six colleges — Allied Health Professions (CAHP), Arts and Sciences (CAS), Business (COB), Education (COE), Technology (COT) and Professional Studies & Lifelong Learning (CPSLL). The CAHP, CAS, COB and COE are located on the East Campus; the COT is on the West Campus; the CPSLL is at the Downtown Campus. The Office of Graduate Studies and Research, the e-Learning Hub and the Library report to the Academic Vice Chancellor/Provost.
The Administrative Division includes the following units — Administrative Services (Financial, Business, and Budget), Facilities Services, Human Resources, Information Technology and Institutional Research and Campus Safety. The directors of each unit report to the Administrative Vice Chancellor.
The Student Affairs division includes Financial Aid & Scholarships, New Student Services, Admissions/Records/Registrar, Housing and Residence Life, Student Government (ASMSUB), Student Legal Services, Student Union & Activities, Community Involvement & Campus Compact, Multicultural Student Services, Career Services, Health Services, Bookstore (Jackets & Co), Dining Services, Campus Ministry, Business Operations, Childcare & Enrichment Center, Academic Support Centers, Advising Centers, and Disability Support Services. Grant-funded programs include Student Opportunity Services/TRiO, Upward Bound and Talent Search. Directors of these service units report to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs while the Academic Support Centers at the East and West Campuses are jointly administered by the VCSA and the Provost.
The College of Allied Health Professions was established in 2004 in response to the growing needs of the community in broadly defined allied health programs. Existing undergraduate and graduate programs in allied health and human services offered by other colleges were consolidated in the CAHP. Programs offered through the College include the following:
- Athletic Training (Graduate)
- Health Administration (Undergraduate/Graduate)
- Health and Human Performance (Undergraduate)
- Human Services (Undergraduate)
- Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling (Undergraduate/Graduate)
- Sport, Recreation and Fitness Management (Graduate)
- Outdoor Adventure Leadership (Undergraduate)
The rehabilitation graduate program is accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE) and the Athletic Training program by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE).
The College of Arts and Sciences offers undergraduate programs in:
The music and art programs in the CAS are accredited by national associations. In AY 2001-2002, all secondary education teaching majors were moved from the College of Education to the College of Arts and Sciences. The CAS offers content majors, in collaboration with the COE, secondary teacher preparation. In response to regional demand and requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, the CAS converted several teaching minors to majors to assure graduates meet the federal definition of a Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT). CAS offers graduate degrees in Psychology, Public Administration (jointly with MSU Bozeman) and Public Relations. The college also contributes to the University’s International Education program by offering a minor in International Studies, study abroad programs in Netherland, Spain, Costa Rica, Germany and other countries.
The University-wide Native American Studies Program and University Honors Program are offered by and housed in the College of Arts and Sciences. The University Honors Program was created in 1997 to enhance the educational experience of students with high-level ability and strong motivation. Designed according to the recommendations of the National Collegiate Honors Council, the program focuses on interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning, service opportunities and learning outcomes-based assessment.
In November 2006, the Montana Board of Regents adopted an Indian Education for All plan for the Montana University System (http://mus.edu/asa/docs/Plan_ IEFA.pdf). The plan emphasized the obligation of teacher education programs throughout the Montana University System to prepare their students for the Indian Education for All mandate at the K12 level. The System should assume a leadership role in providing professional development opportunities for the K12 community and its own academic personnel, as well as developing university-level coursework and programs that supplement the K12 Indian Education for All mandate, with a minimum expectation of at least one course on every campus (Policy 303.5 American Indian Study: http://mus.edu/borpol/bor300/3035.htm).
The Montana Board of Regents has no authority over the seven tribal colleges in Montana, which are tribally controlled two-year community colleges based on each of the seven reservations in the state. Each has its own independent board. (Link: American Indian Higher Education Consortium: http://www.aihec.org/index.cfml. Four of the seven tribal colleges and reservations are located in Eastern Montana.
In 2007, MSUB strengthened its efforts in developing the Native American Studies Program by hiring a full-time Native American Programs Coordinator (NAPC) to provide vision and active leadership in the University’s effort to meet/exceed the constitutional mandate of Indian Education for All: planning, development, community outreach and establishment of a future Native American Institute. The NAPC develops Native American programs and formulates policies to meet educational needs identified through consensus with Tribal College and Tribal government leaders. The NAPC develops and implements Memoranda of Agreements with Tribal, Federal, State and other area agencies. Additionally, the NAPC recruits American Indian students and obtains grants to support Native American programs.
The College of Business offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with emphasis options in finance, management, marketing, accounting and information systems. COB also houses the entrepreneurial centers, the Center for Applied Economic Research (CAER) and the Montana Business Incubator. The COB is pursuing accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), and plans to prepare the Self-Evaluation Report interview in 2008-2009, with a site visit in 2009-2010.
The College of Education offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the following areas:
- Early Childhood Education (Graduate)
- Elementary Education (Undergraduate and Graduate)
- Reading Education (Undergraduate and Graduate)
- Special Education (Undergraduate and Graduate)
- School Counseling (Graduate)
COE programs are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). According to Montana’s partnership agreement with NCATE, state accreditation of programs through the Montana Office of Public Instruction occurs as a joint review with the NCATE unit review. The last accreditation review in spring 2002 was successful, with the College subsequently winning an award for its Conceptual Frameworks from the American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE). The College is currently preparing for its next review in spring 2010.
With the reorganization of the Montana University System in 1994, the former Billings Vocational Technical Center was merged fully into MSU Billings to become the University’s fourth college, the College of Technology, (COT). What was once a stand-alone two-year vocational post-secondary institution focused entirely on career and technical programs, is now a fully integrated unit of the University. Under the leadership of the Chancellor, the University is evolving the mission and breadth of programming at the COT to be more reflective of what would be found at a comprehensive community college, including a greater diversity of university transfer programs, increased community education, and new community partnerships. The University is examining the possibility of eventually establishing the College of Technology as a two-year community college branch of the University with a more diversified funding structure possibly including a community mill levy.
During the past five years, the Montana Board of Regents (BOR) through their “Shared Leadership” strategic planning efforts have identified the expansion of two-year post-secondary education in Montana as a high priority of the Board. An outcome of this goal was the recent elevation of the position of Director of Two-Year Education in the Commissioner’s office to a Deputy Commissioner of Two-Year Education. The BOR is currently exploring strategies to better position the five Colleges of Technology in Montana to better reflect a community college mission. The statewide planning has received interest and support from the Lumina Foundation.
While MSU Billings was the first post-secondary unit within the Montana University System to begin repositioning the programming and support services offered within its College of Technology to better reflect what is traditionally found in a community college, this effort is now being mirrored through the BOR strategic planning process on a statewide level. The COT offers certificate programs, associate of applied science and associate of science degrees and some Academic Foundations courses. COT programs maintain accreditation by the appropriate program accreditation association and are organized into the following divisions:
- Computer Technology and Industry
- Nursing, Health and Safety Occupations
- Transportation, Business and Welding
- Transfer and Learner Support.
The College of Professional Studies and Lifelong Learning was created from the Office of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions to respond to the needs of changing academic expectations in higher education. The CPSLL supports new ventures, incubates new academic and interdisciplinary programs of study and innovative/entrepreneurial programs, and promotes lifelong learning opportunities through community outreach. The educational programs offered through the College are tailored to the economic, social, and cultural needs of the University’s constituents. CPSLL is currently responsible for Summer Sessions, Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning programming (both for credit and non-credit), Workforce Development and Customized Training, Elderhostel, and Kids’ Camps. MSUB has expanded its efforts to assure Access and Excellence for students by relocating the College of Professional Studies and Lifelong Learning to Downtown Billings. The CPSLL works closely with other colleges and Leadership Montana to support continuing education and workforce development non-credit efforts.
The Urban Institute is housed in the space located at the MSUB Downtown campus. Its function is to identify critical issues of long-range significance to the community and region, provide facilitative leadership to address emergent problems and opportunities, and help implement sustainable solutions. The current areas of emphasis are water supply, sustainability, diversity, school dropouts, and developing leadership through the Future Leaders program.
The Office of Graduate Studies extends opportunities for learning through advanced degrees. It facilitates the process of assigning faculty advisors and coordination and administration of graduate assistantships and other services to graduate students.
The Office of Grants and Sponsored Programs deals with external and internal grants and sponsored programs, coordinates the Institutional Review Board (IRB) activities for compliance with Human Subjects research protocols, and oversees the use and care of animals in research.
Located in the College of Education building, staffed with a full-time Director and a pedagogical instructional designer, the eLearning Hub provide vision, lead ership and support for MSUB e-learning activities. Goals and activities focus on faculty support and training, acquiring and developing quality content, implementing comprehensive student services and the efficient use of technology to deliver instruction and services. The e-learning operations apply appropriate standards and assessments to ensure a high-quality instructional experience for both students and faculty.
The Library has been an integral part of the East Campus since its inception and provides access to a wide range of books, articles and databases through collaborative networks across the Western U.S. On the East Campus, a library classroom with 85 computers, an Information Commons area, new study areas with more comfortable furniture, carpeting and lighting and new computer workstations are significant changes during the last 10 years that have positively impacted the University learning environment. A small branch library is located on the East Campus with collections focused on the COT curriculum. Working collaboratively with Student Support Services and the Montana Center on Disabilities, the Library insures access to a full range of facilities for individuals with disabilities.
As an institution, MSU Billings takes its public service mission seriously and works hard to support two key entities that are located at the University, but have wide reach in the community and the region. Both are recognized by the Board of Regent and state leaders as critical elements of the University’s mission. The Montana Center on Disabilities (MCD) is housed in the College of Education building and interfaces with the community organizations and COE pre-service and in-service programs. It serves individuals with disabilities both directly and indirectly, of both the campus in the greater community. (For details see Exhibit 1.9: Montana Center on Disabilities: Focusing on Abilities by Sue Hart.)
Yellowstone Public Radio (KEMC/KBMC/KYPR) provides news and cultural programming for more than 35,000 listeners residing in Montana and Northern Wyoming.
The Office of Alumni Relations, created in March of 2007, is located on the East Campus and is staffed by a former alumna of MSU Billings as a full-time Director of Alumni Relations. The Office of Alumni Relations connects with members of the Alumni Association and staff of the MSU Billings Foundation on event planning and fund raising and provides strategic initiatives for the alumni through alumni events. The former MSUB Alumni Association Board of Directors has now been reorganized into an Advisory Board. Comprising 25 alumni, this working board of volunteers aids in the planning and facilitating of all MSUB alumni events. Twentysix Alumni events were held during 2007-2008, connecting the community and alumni at different levels. Those have included social events for business leaders, athletics and health care specialists. An electronic newsletter is sent to alumni every other month, and a $1,000 renewable scholarship is provided for a student with ties to an MSUB alumnus/alumna. There has been a substantial increase in attendance at our social events, especially in Yellowstone County. Alumni are eager to connect with campus and with each other. The focus is on providing fun, comfortable ways for them to reconnect to the University without feeling pressured to give a donation.
The Administrative Services provides the necessary University infrastructure for managing financial and business operations. Administrative Services ensures compliance with MUS, Montana, and federal rules and regulations. As a community of learners, the University depends upon Administrative Services to manage fiscal operations and have proactive plans that relate to everything from gathering and disseminating institutional data, maintaining smooth business operations, staying meeting student and faculty needs for informational technology and providing a safe and secure learning and teaching environment. Facilities Services maintains a safe, clean, comfortable and attractive learning environment. FS is responsible for long-range master planning for physical structures, as well as all architectural and engineering needs of the three campuses — East, West and Downtown. Using the Banner system, Information Technology/Institutional Research provides the data to be analyzed for informed decision making. In addition to managing the University’s technology infrastructure on three different campuses, IT is taking a leadership role in implementation of the new Desire2Learn electronic learning platform which will provide both academic opportunities in the classroom, and new ways to assess and address student-learning outcomes. The University Police Department, in response to the tragedy of Virginia Tech, is operating with a renewed awareness regarding student safety, faculty/staff security and public accountability.
Student Affairs reaches across all areas of campus in its effort to educate the whole student, both in the classroom and beyond. Ever mindful of the student perspective, Student Affairs’ comprehensive programs and services positively impact students’ development, from freshman recruitment through alumni support. Strong relationships with faculty and administration allow Student Affairs professionals to identify and ameliorate roadblocks to student success in matriculation, academic support and achievement, leadership, career employment, and citizenship. Collaboration with faculty established Academic Support Centers and Advising Centers on both campuses; long-standing partnerships with faculty create Cooperative Education internships and new Service Learning opportunities. An emerging Division focus on student learning and outcomes assessment solidifies the important role Student Affairs professionals serve as educators on this campus.
MSU Billings is a student learning-centered university, and the results of the most recent Student Satisfaction Inventory (Noel-Levitz Survey) outlined below in Figures 1 and 2 are a testimonial to this claim. The University focuses on excellence in teaching and student learning to achieve the Core Purpose — to assure that all members of the University community reach their individual potential. Student Affairs recruits MSU Billings students and provides the services necessary for them to achieve their educational goals. Student leadership programs, community involvement/ engagement, scholarships and childcare scholarships for students further enhance the opportunities for student success. Intercollegiate Athletics provides opportunities for student athletes to achieve in areas other than academics and provides scholarships for academic access.
The MSU Billings 2008 mean score for each of these questions was higher than the national data 2008 mean score, and the probability of these differences being due to chance was less than .001 for all three questions. In addition, the 2008 MSU Billings mean score for each summary question was higher than the 2006 MSU Billings mean score.
The 2008 MSU Billings means exceed the 2008 national data base means for all 12 scales, with the probability of the differences between the MSU Billings mean and the national mean occurring by chance less than .001. In 11 of the 12 cases, the 2008 MSU Billings mean also exceeds the 2006 MSU Billings mean. The probability of the increase between the 2006 and 2008 MSU Billings mean for academic advising occurring by chance is less than .001; the probability of the increase between the 2006 and 2008 MSU Billings means for student centeredness, recruitment and financial aid, concern for the individual, service excellence, and campus climate occurring by chance is less than .01, and the probability of the increase in 2006 and 2008 MSU Billings means for campus life occurring by chance is less than .05.
The Montana University System Core Curriculum (MUS Core), described in the Board of Regents Policy 301.10 (http://mus.edu/borpol/default.asp), represents an agreement among community, tribal, and publicly-funded colleges and universities in the State of Montana. It assures the transfer of up to 30 semester credits for those students enrolled in courses prescribed within each of six areas at a participating host institution. A General Education Council (http://mus.edu/asa/GenEdCouncil.asp) was established in December 2005 to oversee the provisions of Policy 301.10 (http://mus.edu/borpol/bor300/301.10.pdf), including the MUS Core. With the assistance of the Council, each campus of the Montana University System has developed a list of courses that satisfy the MUS Core. Those lists can be found on the BOR website.
The General Education Council of the Montana University System believes that the purpose of general education, and its importance in undergraduate education, is best articulated by the “Essential Learning Outcomes” statement developed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (http://www.aacu.org/leap/vision.cfm). The Council formally adopted that statement in February 2008 as the rationale for the Montana University System General Education Core.
In the spring of 2007, the 59th Montana Legislature called on the Montana University System to develop simple and clear procedures and policies regarding the transfer of credits among the various units of the system. To jump-start this Transferability Initiative, the Legislature allocated significant funds to support the faculty efforts needed to reach consensus on what courses should transfer and to develop the centralized data and web support capabilities at the Commissioner’s Office to ensure this information is available to all users of the system including, community colleges, tribal colleges, colleges of technology and the private fouryear institutions in Montana. Faculty Learning Outcomes Councils (http://mus. edu/transfer/councils/index.asp) drawn from specific disciplines at institutions throughout the state were established and met in spring 2008 to examine individual transferrable courses and reach consensus about appropriate learning outcomes for each one.
A discussion board for these councils makes it easy for council members to continue their deliberations without having to travel to meetings. Reference Resources (http://mus.edu/transfer/councils/Resources.asp) provide background discussions, data, and a national context to provide common ground for council members as they consider some of the larger questions of transfer throughout the system.
While MSU Billings — and the Montana University System — is steeped in tradition, there are 21st century challenges that will require new strategies, expanded conversations and fresh initiatives. In light of all that, MSU Billings has re-examined, strengthened, and coordinated its assessment processes to assure the motto Access and Excellence is fulfilled for all students and constituents. While institutional evaluation and assessment are by nature continuously evolving, the University has made progress toward an institutional assessment lattice integrated into the University’s strategic plans. In fall 2004, the University initiated its second strategic initiatives document for the period 2005-2010. The document was collaboratively developed with faculty and staff and implemented in fall 2005 as the University instituted a Continuous Quality Improvement initiative for all divisions. The CQI process is continual and cyclical, allowing for annual progress review and data-informed decision making. The Continuous Quality Improvement Steering Committee oversees implementation. The Committee maintains a website and publishes a monthly Newsletter, CQI-FYI.
Each division and unit of the University — Academic Affairs, Administrative Affairs, Alumni Relations, Athletic Affairs, Facilities Services, Graduate Studies, Grants and Sponsored Programs, Information Technology and Institutional Research, Library, Public Service Units (KEMC/YPR and the Montana Center on Disabilities) and Student Affairs — developed goals aligned with the University strategic initiatives. Both quantitative and qualitative measures are required to assess performance and outcomes.
Annual program reports are prepared in each division and unit to review and assess alignment with the University’s overall mission. The CQI Steering Committee co-chairs meet with each unit/chair and review the annual report. The CQI process is an ongoing evaluation of the University’s mission and role and a continual attempt to match programs with constituent needs. Coordination of assessment is overseen by the CQI Steering Committee and the Academic Senate. The Committee meets on a regular basis to discuss, review and provide feedback to the various areas of the University. The outcomes are used in planning and implementing changes for improvement. The co-chairs of the Committee report the Committee’s assessment activities to the Chancellor and his Cabinet (comprising the three Vice-Chancellors, Chief Information Officer, Director of University and Government Relations and the CEO of the MSUB Foundation).
Academic Affairs assessment involves multiple instruments and methodologies which are described in Standard 2. In contrast, Administrative Services and other areas use fewer tools to measure their more discrete areas of operation. Each of the areas, however, employs varying appropriate quantitative and qualitative tools to assess their areas in relation to the same overriding criteria:
Does the program or function assessed move the University closer to its motto of Access and Excellence?
Does the program or function assessed support the University’s fulfillment of its Mission?
- MSU Billings provides a University experience characterized by:
- Excellent Teaching
- Support for Individual Learning Engagement in Civic Responsibility
- Intellectual, Cultural, Social and Economic Community Enhancement
- MSU Billings provides a University experience characterized by:
Does the program or function assessed help the University attain its Vision?
- MSU Billings will be recognized as a regional leader for:
- Teaching and Learning
- Translating Knowledge into Practice
- Researching for the Future
- Accepting Leadership for Intellectual, Cultural, Social & Economic Development Beyond University Boundaries
- MSU Billings will be recognized as a regional leader for:
- Does the program or function assessed contribute to fulfillment of the
University’s Strategic Initiatives?
- Programs — Create and maintain distinctive, vital academic programs and services for 21st century learners
- Faculty Excellence — Cultivate excellence in and outside the classroom, in scholarly endeavors and exemplary service through faculty and staff development, support for scholarship, continuing assessment, and recognition of professional service
- Needs of Learners — Identify the needs of all learners and provide access to a University experience that fulfills both individual goals and societal needs
- Social Equity — Model social equity and consciousness by assuring that all members of our campus community grow because of their University experience
- Research Initiatives — Increase the stature, professionalism and research initiatives of all academic programs and student services
- Economic Access — Augment local, state and regional economic development through the strength of the University’s financial base and our learners’ contributions to their communities
- Global Engagement — Increase staff, faculty and student awareness, understanding, and involvement in the international community
- University Infrastructure — Ensure an administrative, operational and physical infrastructure that fully supports excellence
Annual Reports provide evidence of progress toward division/unit goals, data to support this progress and other information, as appropriate for the area.
In addition to Annual Reports, MSU Billings has maintained a scheduled rotation of surveys — student satisfaction (Noel-Levitz), student and faculty engagement (NSSE, FSSE, CCSSE, CCFSSE), employee morale (faculty, staff, and administration, internally disseminated and analyzed), alumni/ae (PEG), graduates, Career Services Graduate Information, and employer satisfaction. Survey analyses resulted in implementation of four Partnership-for-Change Task Forces initiated during AY 2006-2007 — Advising, Recruitment, Retention and eLearning. Each ad hoc task force has representation from administration, faculty, staff and students. Most recently, the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) was adopted to provide a window into the documentation and assessment of the undergraduate student experience. The VSA report provides a college portrait, commonly accepted consumer information, student success and progress rates, a college cost calculator, plans of future degree recipients, student experiences and perceptions, and student learning outcomes. It also provides related University information of interest to students, parents, and outside organizations.
Academic program assessment was enhanced during spring 2007 with pilot implementation of the eCollege Assessment System for the Academic Foundations Program. MSU Billings has used eCollege for the Learning Management System (LMS) for the past 10 years. Approximately two years ago, the University embarked upon a review of the existing LMS platform, as required for IT contracts in the State of Montana. During that process, it was determined that the four campuses of Montana State University (MSU) should collaborate on a single system. The Request for Proposal (RFP) process involved representatives from all four campuses comprising IT staff, eLearning staff, faculty, and other related staff. Major vendors responded to the RFP, which consisted of two phases: the first phase was analysis by the committee of the submitted materials and vendor presentations, and the second phase involved several weeks of hands-on experimentation in each system by staff and faculty on each of the four campuses.
Desire2Learn was selected as the new vendor. Training and implementation have started, migration of courses is taking place, and production of courses will begin in November/December 2008 for classes that begin January 2009. In addition, a more collaborative effort brought together the assessment coordinator, Information Technology specialists and representatives from Academic Senate and the Academic Foundations Committee. Working together, this team identified desired reporting capabilities and designed a user-friendly interface for entering Academic Foundations assessment data.
The interface was made available to faculty in early 2008, and Academic Foundations assessment data were entered for Fall Semester 2007 and Spring Semester 2008. As of summer 2008, other departments, including the College of Education, are engaged with IT to create similar databases for capturing programmatic assessment information.
Overall, the purpose of University-wide assessment efforts is threefold — (1) determination if MSUB is fulfilling its institutional purpose, mission, vision and strategic initiatives while maintaining alignment with its core values; (2) determination of the efficiency and effectiveness of necessary infrastructure processes; and (3) determination of student learning outcomes demonstrating academic achievement.
Postsecondary education has long been understood to be the primary gateway to success for most Montanans. In a global environment where technology information and knowledge are key to economic advancement, postsecondary education is no longer just preferred, but essential. While for previous generations an eighth-grade education was sufficient for some — and later a high school education was adequate — today, employers, citizens and taxpayers of Montana require more education.
The policy and procedural challenges for MSU Billings in the future are multifaceted. Those challenges include:
A leaky educational pipeline
Even though there are indications that education is held in high esteem by the individual and the state, Montana is facing an alarming trend in educational attainment. According to data gathered by the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, Montana’s public high school graduation rates peaked at 87% in 1993 and dropped to 79% in 2004. Approximately 8% of teenagers between the ages of 16-19 are considered “dropouts” – not a high school graduate nor enrolled in school nor looking for work. The state is also experiencing low college participation rates. For every 100 Montana students who enter ninth grade, fewer than half are likely to graduate from high school four years later and enroll in college within a year. Our public higher education completion rates also lag behind the rest of the nation. Only 42% of students who enter a Montana four-year postsecondary institution actually graduate from that institution within six years, compared to 50% in the 15 western states (excluding California, 2006 data), and students from our least affluent counties have dramatically lower graduation and participation rates than the state’s average.
The Draining of Rural Montana
A major demographic shift has been taking place in Montana over the past decade and will likely continue into the near future. While the overall number of 6-18-year-olds is declining across America, that population demographic is waning at a more precipitous rate in Montana. In a state with only seven people per square mile, the drop in that younger demographic is not only noticeable, but alarming for education, especially for institutions that depend on rural parts of the state for traditional-aged students to meet enrollment goals. 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 in 2007. At the same time, the state’s economy, like that of the rest of the nation, is facing a serious shortage of skilled workers during the next two decades.
State support for higher education
In recent years — for the first time for many families — 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. According to the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, Montana’s average tuition was $27 below the 15 western states’ average in 1994. Just 10 years later, it was $703 above the average. 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 FTEgenerated revenue. In the minds of many education leaders, the only way to tackle this shortfall is for increased levels of state support.
Attracting adult learners
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 Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) states. At the same time, our state has many high-paying jobs that go unfilled – in technology, health care, construction, and 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.
MSU Billings has begun to proactively and collaboratively address the above challenges by promoting discussions and generating and implementing action plans that affect the university, the community and the region. In July 2007, MSU Billings faculty, staff and administrators gathered at the Downtown Campus for a twoday retreat to discuss revenue streams, two-year education, program development, scheduling, and communication, all of which were tied to the above-mentioned emerging challenges for higher education. Discussions continued during the academic year 2007-2008 as strategies were developed and implemented. (Proceedings of the retreat are contained in Exhibits for Standard 2.)
To help high school students get a jump start on earning their college degree, MSU Billings offers a University Connections Program, in which students can enroll in college courses while still in high school. Exploration of a dual-credit program between Montana State University Billings and School District 2 started in the summer of 2007 and led to offering English and math courses at Billings Senior High School. MSUB is expanding the dual-credit program in 2008-2009 by offering additional courses in math and history.
The MSUB Institutional Report (IR) presents both our University mission and its alignment with Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) accreditation standards. With input from faculty, staff, students and administrators, the CQI Steering Committee has been actively engaged in gathering information, writing and editing this document since fall 2005. Drafts of the IR have been extensively reviewed by the University community and feedback provided to the members of the CQI Steering Committee and the Co-Chairs.
The IR is organized according to the standards. A description of our compliance answers each of the nine standards and associated substandards and policies. Evidence is included within or referred to throughout the document with the following numbering system:
Required and supplementary documents and exhibits are sequentially numbered by standard, for example 1.1 Mission Document. Charts and tables in the Institutional Report are numbered sequentially as Figures.
To emphasize the importance of data analysis and use, current/future actions based on our self-assessment provide a summary for the individual standards.
- Exhibits 2.32,
- 1.1 Mission Document;
- 1.3 Annual Reports;
- 2.1 Assessment System;
- 6.2 Organizational Charts