BOZEMAN — Montana State University leaders voted today to approve a new strategic plan that will guide the university’s efforts for the next seven years.

The new plan, called “Choosing Promise,” articulates the university’s strategic direction and will serve as its roadmap through 2024. It states the university’s mission, vision and values. It also lists areas of intentional focus and goals, as well as metrics that will be used to measure progress toward those goals and the specific actions needed to help reach them. The plan was approved by MSU’s University Council, which includes members from across the university.

Montana State University campus (Photo: MSU)

"This plan reflects our proud heritage and proposes a bright future for Montana's land-grant university. As the last plan guided budgets and decisions, this plan will help us to make disciplined decisions about the allocation of the resources entrusted to us," said MSU President Waded Cruzado.

“Choosing Promise” states MSU’s land-grant mission to integrate education, the creation of knowledge and art, and service to communities. The plan details MSU’s vision to “transform lives and communities in the people’s interest” and lists six key values: excellence, integrity, inclusion, collaboration, curiosity and stewardship.

The plan lists three high-level focus areas: transformational learning experiences; research, creative activity and scholarship with impact on lives and society; and engagement with communities.

Some of the plan’s goals include increasing the access to education and success of students from a variety of backgrounds, enhancing graduate education, providing additional evidence-based teaching and learning experiences, strengthening research and creative activity that is responsive to regional and national needs, and increasing interdisciplinary research. The plan also calls for greater responsiveness to Montana's American Indian tribes, strengthened partnerships with communities and organizations within the state, and a collaborative culture on campus.

Specifically, by the year 2024, the plan calls for meeting 80 percent of student financial need, compared to the current 74 percent. It seeks to increase the number of dual enrollment students – those who take college courses while they are still enrolled in high school – by 40 percent. It also seeks to increase the number of 1-year and 2-year degrees and certificates awarded by 50 percent.

The plan calls for increasing the number of new freshmen and transfer students who return their second fall — a measure referred to as student retention — from 72 percent to 85 percent. It also seeks to reduce disparities for students who are economically disadvantaged, first generation students, veterans, adult learners, individuals with disabilities, and students from underrepresented races and ethnicities.

In addition, MSU will foster four “Grand Challenges of Montana” that are responsive to regional and global needs. Those include caring for the environment, promoting wellness in communities, encouraging food and fuel security, and securing the future of Montana. The university plans to define ways to measure success in the grand challenge areas by 2020 and will monitor for demonstrated, research-related improvement by 2024.

The plan outlines a number of metrics and actions related to the university’s work with American Indian students and tribal partners. For example, it calls for building and maintaining an inventory of current partnerships with tribal partners by 2020. It also calls for working closely with partners to develop a plan to improve and increase tribal partnerships with mutually defined outcomes by 25 percent by 2024. By enhancing partnerships with Montana tribal colleges, MSU also seeks to increase the number of tribal college graduates who enroll at MSU by 2024. And the plan calls for completing construction on the American Indian Hall by 2022.

The 10-member Strategic Planning Committee prepared the draft based on the input of hundreds of faculty, staff, students and community members. Feedback was solicited throughout the process over the last 12 months.

Chris Fastnow, chair of the Strategic Planning Committee, expressed gratitude on Wednesday for the work of the committee and for the participation of the community in the planning process.

"The committee made improvements to the plan in response to community feedback throughout the process, even up to the final draft that the council saw,” she said. “We have been so pleased with the level of engagement from our faculty, students, staff and community.  The plan is more aspirational and inspirational because of it."

MSU’s current strategic plan, “Mountains and Minds: Learners and Leaders,” has guided the university’s efforts since 2012. Because that plan concludes in 2019, MSU has been developing the next strategic plan over the past year in order to provide continuity of direction and purpose with no gaps between plans, Fastnow said.

The university will begin using “Choosing Promise” in January 2019.