During our recent Employee Appreciation Week, I took the opportunity to learn (by doing) the work of several other employees on campus. One job that was particularly challenging was that of one of our campus arborists. These tree care professionals are responsible for maintaining the trees on campus – an important job as the UM campus also serves as Montana’s state arboretum.
After getting into the harness and rigging with ropes up into a nearby Douglas fir, I went to work pruning the branches. My brief time as an arborist-in-training gave me an interesting new perspective about one of the many jobs on campus that I had not known much about.
These first few months as president of the University of Montana have similarly given me the opportunity to learn more about the extraordinary people in our community. As I have engaged with students, faculty, researchers, donors, staff, alumni and volunteers, I am reminded that we all bring unique talents, expertise and perspectives to UM and, together, we do incredible work.
We are on an exciting path. Earlier this spring, I released a draft titled “University of Montana Strategy for Distinction” with preliminary recommendations to position our university for national leadership in areas of academic excellence, to meet the needs of current and future students, and to address a $10 million budget deficit over the next three years. This strategy is the culmination of two years of work on the campus, encompassing strategic planning efforts and a broad program prioritization effort for our academic programs and administrative services.
My time with the arborists provided me with a new perspective. At UM, we will move forward seeking many viewpoints from our stakeholders. You will inform our decisions and provide a holistic lens through which we can envision an exciting future. If we proceed together with the common goal of a vibrant university offering the most impactful education for our students, we can mine these many different perspectives and ideas to create something truly exceptional.
These first months as your president have gone by quickly. I have traveled to Billings, Havre (in February!), Helena and the Flathead Valley in addition to meeting with many in our Missoula community. As I work my way around the state, I see great optimism for our future. I know that by working together and combining our diverse talents and skills, we are creating a stronger UM.
Seth Bodnar, UM President