University Relations and Communications

Setting the bar: Michael Barton pushes himself to excel -- in and out of the classroom

April 30, 2010


Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269




MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — In the waning moments of spring semester, a few Montana State University Billings students were talking about the run-up to final exams and all the work — and pressure — that comes with it.


Mike Barton

Rigorous demands of the faculty and difficulty of the tests aside, a common thread ran through the discussion: besting Michael Barton.

“Just once I want to get a better score that Barton,” one biology student said with a nervous laugh.


It would be like challenging Kobe Bryant to a shooting contest. Anything’s possible, right?


And while outscoring Barton on an exam may have happened a time or two during his student career at MSU Billings, odds are he led the academic pack more often than not. 


One of only four seniors graduating this weekend with a perfect 4.0 GPA, Barton has been setting the bar at high levels in the Department of Biological and Physical Sciences since he was a freshman. And he’s not only pushed himself academically, but also through leadership and community involvement.


Recognized for achieving those high marks, Barton is this year’s recipient of the MSU Billings Golden Merit Award.


Exceedingly friendly, approachable and sporting a resume of involvement as impressive as his academic record, Barton has gained many fans.


Dr. Tom Lewis, an associate professor of biochemistry, noted that Barton performed well in tough science classes even though he was working on meeting equally tough demands as a basketball player and a student leader. His teaching method is to allow students to do the maximum amount of hands-on work in the labs while he was available to assist as needed. Barton, he said, was “ahead of most of the class in his ability to perform necessary calculations, and to organize a plan of work and execute procedures with the necessary attention to detail.”


He also helped other students learn, Lewis said, as a lab teaching assistant and as a research student.


A native of Havre, Barton is one of a succession of four Barton siblings to attend MSU Billings. His sister, Danielle, graduated from the university two years ago and his brothers, Matthew and Steven, are currently enrolled. Both younger Bartons are also involved in student live, Matthew in student government and Steven as a resident assistant.


“Danielle kind of set the pattern for us,” Barton said. “Basketball took up the major portion of my plate for the first three years, but really do think you make more of your experience (in college) once you get involved. That’s a big step.”


As he matured as a student at MSU Billings, Barton grew into leadership roles. When work needed to be done, Barton was often among the seniors setting an example. In the past two years alone, he was involved as:

  • Upward Bound summer team leader and tutor.
  • Resident Assistant in Rimrock Hall.
  • Member of the Department Retention and Tenure Committee.
  • Academic Senate student representative.
  • Habitat for Humanity.
  • Adopt-a-Resident program at St. John’s Lutheran Ministry.
  • Service Saturday participant.
  • Blood drive volunteer.
  • Job shadow at Riverstone Health clinic.
  • Coordinator of the annual ASMSUB Easter Egg Hunt.
  • Co-coordinator for the annual MSU Billings Summerfest.
  • Student Resolution Officer for Associated Students of MSU Billings.


Working as Student Resolution Officer, a student government representative who helps students resolve conflicts with faculty, gave Barton a new perspective about the university, he said.


“In that position, working with faculty and administration, you get a different insight into the workings of MSUB,” he said.

All of it, he said, combines into a unforgettable experience.


“The most memorable part of being a student is the people you meet and the relationships you build,” he said. 


While graduating summa cum laude is its own reward, Barton is setting his own personal bar even higher. He’s studying for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and will be applying to medical school with his sights set on becoming a family practice physician.


For those who know Barton, it’s no surprise. Just another high expectation he sets for himself.


PHOTO ABOVE: Michael Barton will be receiving the Golden Merit Scholar award this weekend during commencement activities at MSU Billings.


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