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Bodnar challenges UM faculty and staff to "simplify" - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Bodnar challenges UM faculty and staff to "simplify"

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MISSOULA - University of Montana President Seth Bodnar says he's not expecting the campus to continue the same amount of programs and complexity now that more than 80-people have left the school with voluntary buyouts. 

Instead, he told MTN News that he's encouraging the entire UM faculty, administrators and staff to "simplify" and find more efficient ways of filling the university's core mission.

Bodnar's call to "simplify" comes as he closes out his first month running UM, with presentations this week to all parties on campus, kick-starting what he hopes is an effort to position the school for the future. 

One challenge is to regroup the University Planning Committee, reviewing the past two years of work by other panels and coming up with a strategic plan by May.  Another is looking at what Bodnar calls "Project Simplification", making campus operations "easier and better" and ways to "simplify the way of work".

"It's imperative for us not to simply say 'we need to do the same work with fewer people and better results'," Bodnar said. "So we're not going to do that. We're going to take a very deliberative and intentional process to assess how we do work at this university to support that core mission and make sure that we're integrated and effective as possible."

The dollars also dictate change. UM lost nearly 4,000 full-time equivalent students and $17 million a year in tuition revenue in the last six years. Bodnar believes more targeted marketing, and retention of students will help fill that hole. But he admits the current situation "isn't sustainable" over the long-run. 

He's challenging the UM community to build a campus where all the parts are working together, instead of competing for money.

"This is not a world where you can just have some basic skills-based education right? It's a world that you need STEM, and we have terrific STEM offerings here at the university," Bodnar said.

"But you need more. And our power is in the "&". We have great sciences and great arts and humanities and professional skills. And it's that combination that students need to succeed in a world where they're not just going to have one job. They're probably going to have 10-jobs," Bodnar added.

Bodnar believes it's a "defining moment for UM", at a time where the perceived value of higher education is slipping, something he calls "frightening".

"I think we've seen, over the past few years, perceptions of the value of higher education and its importance diminished. And I think that's really dangerous," Bodnar said.

Bodnar hopes to boost student retention by 10% over the next two years, a goal he says could have a positive "$4 million impact" on UM's budget. 

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