This year marked the ninth consecutive record broken for freshmen enrollment at MSU. The growing pains have partially been eased by President Waded Cruzado’s aggressive fundraising campaigns, and by a recent influx of private donations for new buildings. The unveiling of Yellowstone Hall, the continued construction of the parking garage across from the SUB and the beginning stages of the Norm Asbjornson Innovation Center for the College of Engineering are all current projects, made possible by fundraising. Meanwhile, the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship and the newly renovated Miller Dining Hall are on their second year of use. While students were working or playing this summer, MSU continued its growth spurt with two new major monetary contributions.
At the end of last May, the Board of Regents met to approve a generous $8 million gift from the Gianforte Family Foundation. The Computer Science Department was renamed the “Gianforte School of Computing.” Greg Gianforte, founder of RightNow Technologies and champion of computer science education across Montana, is currently running in the gubernatorial race against incumbent Gov. Steve Bullock.
Although some questioned the timing of the gift, others found it controversial because of past Gianforte Family Foundation donations to the Family Research Council (a Christian group against homosexuality and gay marriage) and Gianforte’s opposition to Bozeman’s nondiscrimination ordinance passed in 2014. However, Cruzado explained that tolerance is a “two-way street” and that the gift was accepted now because of extraneous circumstances. When Norm Asbjornson gifted $50 million for a new center for engineering students, it was under the condition that MSU match his donation up to $20 million dollars. Consequently, $2 million of Gianforte’s donation went toward the donation matching funds. MSU recently announced that they had met the $20 million fundraising requirement via hundreds of donations. Due to MSU’s fundraising success, construction of Norm Asbjornson Hall is moving forward with the groundbreaking ceremony set for Thursday, Sept. 22. Members of the Board of Regents discussed changing the naming policy in the future to give community members more opportunities to weigh in.
In August, two professors from the MSU Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics were awarded a $5.67 million grant from The Charles Koch Foundation. Professors Vince Smith and Wendy Stock intend on using the money for a new research center. However, the MSU Center for Regulatory and Applied Economic Analysis (CRAEA) has yet to be approved by the Board of Regents. The grant agreement, as published by MSU, states that the “mission of the CRAEA is to engage graduate and undergraduate students with faculty in academic research that will further the understanding of economic regulation and policy’s impact on societal well being.” CRAEA must submit an annual research proposal, and if it deviates from the mission or the Koch Foundation does not approve, “The Donor is under no obligation to contribute funds to the University.” The funds currently will be used to fund Smith and Stock’s research, two new tenured or tenure-track professors, visiting faculty to conduct independent research, research fellows and assistantships for graduate or undergraduate students and research grants for faculty. The grant will also go to fund new positions of the CRAEA assistant director, communications and information technology coordinators and toward general operations and support of the Center.