April 25, 2008



Dr. Jenny Leonard, Assistant Professor, Information Systems, 657-1689
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — In a global economy where the speed of business is getting quicker all the time, business students need to be able to keep pace if they are going to be able to “hit the ground running” upon graduation.


This week, a group of local business leaders got to see first-hand just how fast that can be, thanks to a new $300,000 specialized lab at the Montana State University Billings College of Business.


The Management  Information Systems (MIS) lab, just completed this semester and opened this month, was made possible through a $150,000 grant from the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education and matching funds from local businesses. What was once a traditional classroom on the second floor of McDonald Hall where students used to talk about technology in the business world is now a state-of-the art interactive and collaborative learning environment where they can do it. 


“The other faculty have been salivating to get in here because they can use it too,” said Dr. Jenny Leonard, assistant professor of information systems who has been working for two years to turn an idea into reality. “This is not just for IT students. We now have the ability for our marketing students to get in and use the tools they will actually use in their new jobs.”


A multimedia center, 30 computer stations, a recordable white board, a new standalone server and networking system at her fingertips, Leonard could barely contain her enthusiasm Thursday as she showed the new lab to some of the donors who helped make the lab possible. From sending notes on a whiteboard via computer to students outside of MSU Billings to immediate downloads of meetings, Leonard showed how business students will have the capabilities to help businesses manage their complex technology needs.


PowerPoint presentations and spreadsheets have their place, but for many companies, the modern business environment is highly interactive and collaborative.


Ed Garding, an executive vice president of First Interstate Banksystems and chair of the College of Business Advisory Board, was able to see how well it works. Garding spoke a few words to Leonard as if in a meeting or lecture session, had it video recorded and then loaded onto the network for distribution. Total time for technology prep and distribution: Less than 30 seconds.


Since about 20 percent of MSU Billings’ business students are online students, the MIS lab technology can be used to improve delivery of online classes as well. And since the new lab operates on its own server, students can tackle projects that deal with data systems without jeopardizing the university’s database or information technology systems. 


Dr. Ronald Sexton, chancellor of MSU Billings, told business leaders and donors that the new lab continues a trend of community investment that is unmatched elsewhere in the Montana University System.


“This lab represents the kinds of partnerships that allow to get things done that we couldn’t get done by ourselves or without having to go to our students through increased fees or tuition,” he said.


Garding said private sector support for MSU Billings and projects like the new lab makes a lot of sense.

“I can’t think of a better means of economic development than education,” he said.


Jim Walker, president of Western Security Bank and the major donor to the MIS lab, is a second generation MSU Billings student. His father was a Yellowjacket football team captain he said he fondly remembers his days at what was then Eastern Montana College, despite what his grade-point average might have been.


“This university has always been a stabilizing factor in Billings,” he said.


Along with Western Security Bank and Ed and Becky Garding, other donors to the MIS lab were:

  • Computers Unlimited
  • MDU Resources Foundation
  • Nance Petroleum
  • NorthWestern Energy
  • Rimrock Foundation
  • Zoot Banking Systems

To find out more about the MIS lab, contact Leonard at 657-1689. To find out more about the different programs at the College of Business, go online to www.msubillings.edu/cob/


Jenny Leonard and Ed Garding in the new College of Business multimedia lab

Dr. Jenny Leonard, assistant professor of information systems at the Montana State University Billings College of Business, shows Ed Garding, executive vice president of First Interstate Banksystems, some of the interactive features of the new management information systems lab at the university. Playing the role of a teacher, Garding had said a few words that were instantly recorded and then prepared for distribution via computer network to an off-site class. The $300,000 lab was made possible by grants from the state and matching funds from local businesses.