Founders’ Day Provides Time to Reflect on Growth

MSU may have turned 123 years old on Feb. 16, but the university is looking younger and better than ever. MSU was originally founded in 1893 as Montana State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. MSU has grown a bit since the initial enrollment of 46 students, and with that growth it is important to ensure that MSU is keeping the student experience in mind.

Each year it is increasingly evident that MSU is straining to keep pace with the growth. From struggling to find rooms in residence halls for the freshmen to students spending twenty minutes looking for a parking space — the struggles are obvious. MSU is responding to the cramped campus with additional infrastructure, albeit a little late, but additions from the parking garage to the new residence hall will provide certain areas on campus much needed relief. The parking garage provides a slight increase in parking spots, as it will accommodate 550 cars, 150 more than the previous parking lot provided. Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship created 11 new classrooms that accommodates up to 440 students. The Norm Asbjornson Innovation Center will provide additional classroom and laboratory spaces, while the Yellowstone Residence Hall will house 400 new freshmen.

The last two years have seen exceptional struggles with residence halls. At the beginning of the last academic year, 89 students were placed in temporary housing. The temporary displacement undoubtedly had negative impacts on freshmen’s first year experience trying to soak in the college experience living in a dorm lounge with other students doesn’t exactly scream “ideal freshmen experience.” It also doesn’t help when students go from their temporary housing to a cramped, under-equipped and overcrowded classroom.

Although, with the growth came expansion of several notable departments, offices and positions. The growth is apparent in the most subtle of ways – even in the SUB.  In 2011, MSU committed to opening a Veteran Support Center, creating a welcoming space for veterans to connect with other veterans and resources, including tutoring and counseling, and to simply provide a space for veterans to call ‘home’ on campus. The Diversity Awareness Office used to be a half-time position before the school provided funding to not only change the half-time position to a full time position, but also provided an office space for Diversity Awareness on the third floor of the SUB. Broadening the scope of student services, however small they may seem, is incredibly important for ensuring that MSU does not lose its appeal and its student centered focus amid growth.

It would be an understatement to say that the above changes are beneficial, but it would also be misguided to say such changes are enough. Each new student comes to MSU with a variety of needs, and as a school MSU should be doing all they can to ensure that all students have resources available to them — from increasing ADA access across campus to creating a staff position for LGBTQIA students — MSU needs to continue increasing services with increasing enrollment numbers. Happy 123rd birthday MSU, you’re still looking better than University of Montana.