The President’s Perspective

A message from President Royce C. Engstrom


Categories: Campus , Academic

President Engstrom
President Engstrom


As you can see from   the cover of this issue, we connect the University of Montana with the planet Mars. UM alumni are naming features on Mars after the places we know so well here in Western Montana. For example, there’s a Martian rock formation called “Missoula,” as well as an area on Mars called “Marias Pass.”

But this issue is about more than place names, even in outer space. This issue is about pioneers and pushing new boundaries—UM graduates who are deeply involved with some of the most important space missions in the world. You will learn about an alum who first discovered that water existed on Mars, one who is the first to see images of the Red Planet sent back from the Curiosity rover, one who studies Pluto, and one who just might help design, build, and fly a spacecraft.

These alumni started in majors such as geosciences and physics and astronomy, and these programs are even more vibrant today. Our students study with faculty such as Associate Professor Nate McCrady and the multi-telescope observatory in Arizona designed to hunt for rocky planets similar to Earth around nearby stars. They study with Professor Dan Reisenfeld, who’s a member of the Cassini research team that studies Saturn. And that’s just a taste of what’s going on at UM in this one area of study. So the next time you look up to the night sky, know that UM is there.

This Montanan also features two other graduates who truly are pioneers:

  • Former UM basketball guard Jack Burgess played a key role in “The Secret Game,” which took place in the segregated South in 1944. In an unprecedented event, the basketball team from the North Carolina College for Negroes battled an all-white team from the Duke medical school on a Sunday morning in an empty gym.
  • Alumna Carla Dove is the leading national expert on bird collisions with airplanes, helping make travel safer for all of us. She plies her fascinating trade at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Our successful graduates testify to the power of a UM education: the values of discovery, creativity, and a broad, liberal arts-based curriculum. I mention that because some people worry these values are changing as UM resolves enrollment and related budget challenges. Nothing is further from the truth.

Indeed, UM does face a lower enrollment today of 13,000 students, and we are working this winter and spring season to adjust our employee numbers to reflect that. We are keeping the campus community informed as we move through this process, and I welcome you to follow the news on our budget communications webpage at

There always will be challenges before the University of Montana, but we will have the resources so that our intrepid students, faculty, and alumni continue to push new frontiers.

You can help your alma mater. Share your stories about your time at UM. If you know someone considering college, tell them about the quality of your education. Send them our way by e-mailing me at, and I will follow up. Let them know what UM means to you and how, when they arrive on the Oval—under that big M and Main Hall—they’ll thrive.


Royce C. Engstrom, President

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