A quartet of campuses came together October 29 – 30 for the first annual One MSU Symposium. The two day conference united Montana State’s Bozeman, Billings, Great Falls and Havre campuses with the purpose of helping “MSU educators continue conversations about how to best serve students,” according to an online brief. The event featured keynote speaker Joseph Cuseo, a professor of psychology emeritus at California’s Marymount College, and gathered more than 80 faculty members from across Montana.
Tuesday’s opening remarks included a report from the Commissioner of Higher Education — Clayton Christian. The majority of the conference, however, was constituted by the different departments conferencing in small groups to brainstorm action plans, timelines and set tangible goals for the upcoming year. This was followed by reconvening to share the groups’ ideas and plans with the symposium attendees at large.
On the second day, MSU’s President Waded Cruzado opened with congratulatory and appreciative remarks. Cruzado reinforced that their purpose was not to “build an empire,” but rather to come together, strategize, encourage and set tangible goals for the improvement of each department. “There’s not one campus that has all the resources, or all the right answers,” Cruzado said, “we need each other.” Joseph Cuseo echoed Cruzado’s sentiments in his own speech, saying, “You [MSU faculty members] have a culture of collaboration … that’s a strength to build on.”
[pullquote align=”right”]“There’s not one campus that has all the resources, or all the right answers … we need each other.” — Waded Cruzado[/pullquote]
Throughout the conference, the faculty focused heavily on student success, including refining scholarships and transfer processes. Specifically mentioned was the occurrence of students moving in-between two and four-year institutions and the barriers encountered in that process. MSU hopes to develop designated contacts for transfer students to assure a warm hand-off. “Those personal relationships are critical,” said Cuseo.
Also mentioned was improving Financial Aid services. This includes creating common language and improving the availability of resources for families as well as students so they can be assisted in making informed and realistic decisions regarding finances and college costs.
The symposium recognized faculty members who go above and beyond and encouraged continued communication between the campuses. The tone for the conference was collaborative with the purpose of making the academic process more welcoming, informed, resourceful, assisting and unambiguous for students. Cruzado looked to the future with positivity, saying, “The state of Montana can really become a leader in the nation, in terms of promoting [student] success.”