August 24, 2016
University Convocation welcomes new students, new year, and a vision for the future
Chancellor Mark Nook’s Third Annual University Convocation was held Tuesday in Petro Hall on the university campus.
University Relations and Communications, 657-2266
MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Montana State University Billings faculty and staff began the Fall 2016 semester Tuesday afternoon in the Petro Theatre on the university campus with the Third Annual University Convocation, where Chancellor Mark Nook offered a vision for the university’s “Foundation for the Next Century.”
As Nook enters his third year as chancellor, he told the convocation that the university is welcoming its 90th freshmen class this autumn. As the university moves closer to its centennial in 10 years, he said strengthening student success is key to the future.
“In order to build our foundation for the next century, our strategic planning process must begin today,” Nook said.
Planning, he said, must set the university on course to meet the needs of students and the people of Eastern Montana economically, culturally, socially and intellectually 30-40 years from now.
Priorities, he noted, are to improve student success, plan for the future, and fund the Yellowstone Science and Allied Health Building.
“Our purpose is to help everyone reach their full potential, we are committed to this mission,” he said. “We must continue to try and improve the quality of education and success of our students academically while they are here, and then when they leave.”
Retention, he said, isn’t the most important thing to focus on. Education is.
“Retention is really just a symptom, like measuring blood pressure.”
By 2019, Nook’s vision is to be 12 percentage points higher than the freshman retention rate in 2013, which would place the university at the median within the peer institution comparisons. And by 2026, Nook said the goal is to be at a 70 percent retention rate at MSUB’s centennial year. “It’s a good retention rate for an institution of our size and mission.”
A Student Success Committee was formed in the the fall of 2014 led by Matthew Redinger, vice provost, with a charge to give recommendations to improve student retention and success. Nook said the committee filed their final report in October, with proposals to implement Gateways to Completion courses, an Early Alert/Warning system, bring the TRiO/SSS program to a larger segment of students, and provide supplemental instruction.
Also part of the committee’s efforts includes a two-day symposium Aug. 24-25, of which all faculty and staff are encouraged to attend. The conference, titled “Promoting Meaningful Learning Relationships Inside and Outside the Classroom, is presented by the John N. Gardner Institute, originator of the First Year Experience and Students in Transition movements in higher education.
The gathering of about 200 faculty and staff recognized several nationally acclaimed faculty members who received the the university’s second patent, and others for a variety of national awards. Those recognized for their outstanding accomplishments were Suzette Nynas, assistant professor and director of MSUB’s Athletic Training Education Program, awarded with the 2016 National Athletic Training Education Service Award; and Sam Boerboom and Melissa Boehm, both of the Department of Education, for their collaboration on a recently published book, “The Political Language of Food.”
Also recognized, professors Kurt Toenjes and David Butler of the Department of Biological and Physical Sciences, as well as Joy Goffena, for being awarded with a U.S. Patent for an anti-fungal method showing promise as a way of controlling bark beetles.
Among the students recognized for success was the American Indian Business Leaders student group, who brought home the national championship. City College at MSUB’s SkillsUSA member Nick Neihenke won second place at the national conference, a second top 10 for the college.
Student athletes were also recognized during the presentation for both academic accomplishments and performance.
“We’ve had some real success with Athletics in the classroom this year,” Nook said. “And great success on the track, field and courts.”
Boasting the top team grade point averages in their respective sports, the baseball and women’s golf teams earned the Great Northwest Athletic Conference top academic team awards. Track and field athlete Della Lyle earned the first female All-American for MSUB in the sport and Robert Peterson was named the track GNAC champion.
Women’s basketball finished third in the conference, but the team qualified for the NCAA tournament. Baseball finished as co-champs of the GNAC after winning the title outright the year before.
Other acknowledgements included a $1.4 million grant renewal from the Department of Education to continue funding the Educational Talent Search Trio program for the next five years.
Nook thanked the program’s director, Dan Benge, and his staff for helping to prepare high school students for college.
Thirty percent of the Billings Gazette’s 40 Under Forty are MSUB alumni, Nook said. We are preparing our students to go out and do well in their careers and in our communities, he said.
Courses begin on both campuses September 7.