Office of the Provost & Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

 Academic Affairs Master Plan


The development of the Academic Master Plan was intended to focus the University’s efforts to achieve its vision and to engage in continuous improvement.  The University’s primary mission is preparing students to be productive and responsible citizens with the educational tools needed to pursue meaningful careers and service.  Therefore, it was important for Academic Affairs to take the lead in developing a plan since all other planning processes and resource decisions throughout other divisions and services of the university must support and enhance the academic mission and the Academic Master Plan. 


Role and Philosophy

Academic Affairs is responsible for all instructional programs, educational policy, academic planning, academic resources, and faculty personnel actions. In addition, the Division is responsible for academic support units including the Library, the Office of Graduate Studies and Research, Honors, International Studies, MSUB Online, and the Centers for Disabilities, Training and Development, Applied Economic Research, and Northern Plains.


Academic Affairs has a strong history of shared governance.  Programmatic and curricular decisions and faculty evaluation are conducted by peer and administrative evaluation through standing committees in the Colleges and the University.  The Academic Affairs division is focused on student learning and student success.  The division values academic freedom and the development of a community of scholars.


Academic Affairs Mission Statement

To ensure all current and prospective students have access to excellent academic programs and the customer service and support they need to succeed; to provide a rich educational environment for students by building a community of scholars dedicated to student success through excellence in teaching and learning, innovation, discovery, creativity, civic engagement, diversity, and inclusiveness; to direct constructive change in the delivery and implementation of academic programs in response to the needs of students and of employers in the twenty-first century; and to demonstrate wise stewardship of all the University’s instructional and academic support resources through assessment, accountability, and continuous improvement to ensure high quality, relevant, higher education at an affordable price.


Foundation for the Academic Master Plan

The Academic Master Plan begins with the University’s vision, core values, mission, and motto.  These statements, along with the University’s nine strategic initiatives are the foundational underpinnings of the Academic Master Plan and guided and shaped its form and content. 



The University’s Vision, Core Values, Mission, and Strategic Initiatives:



Your University of Choice and Educational Partner for a Lifetime


Core Values

·        Access – MSU-Billings recognizes the importance of access for all our constituents and is committed to providing them with a lifetime of accessibility to superior quality educational opportunities, programs and services.

·        Excellence – MSU Billings emphasizes excellence in all of its educational opportunities, programs and services’ recognizing that excellence is not a destination, but a persistent striving for the very best.

·        Student Centered – MSU Billings values student growth and is committed to excellence in teaching, research, and support for all students.  Valuing students means a management approach that considers the needs of students first in decision-making.

·        Civic Engagement – MSU Billings values civic engagement and provides strong support for educational opportunities that encourage students, faculty, and staff to actively serve the communities where they live and work.

·        Inclusiveness and Diversity – MSU Billings encourages, embraces and celebrates the principles of inclusion, diversity, openness, and representation stressing civility, respect, and empowerment.

·        Constructive Leadership and Change – MSU Billings values the contemporary culture of continuous change and improvement and seeks to be visionary in thoughts, ideas, and action.

·        Affordability and Stewardship – MSU Billings is committed to keeping the cost of public higher education affordable to all Montanans and to assuring responsible stewardship of the resources invested in Montana public higher education.

·        Dynamic Alliances – MSU Billings regards the building of dynamic alliances with K-12 education, other institutions of higher education, government, and business and industry as critical to our commitment to meet the growing demand for educational opportunity and an education workforce in a “knowledge economy.”

·        International Engagement and Cultural Exchange – The University will engage our community of influence in the globalization of our instruction, research, service, and economic development efforts.


University Mission

Montana State University-Billings is a member of the Montana State University family of campuses with a unique mission; which supports and enhances the Montana University System and public higher education in Montana. 

Committed to the ideal of access to all qualified individuals and excellence in programs and services the University serves to fulfill its vision of being “Your University of Choice and Educational Partner for a Lifetime,” through a multifaceted commitment to:

  • Providing high quality certificate, associate, bachelors and masters degrees in the Arts and Sciences, Education, Business, Human Services, Technology and Health Administration;
  • Seeking excellence in all of its educational opportunities, programs and services recognizing that excellence is not a destination, but a persistent striving to be the very best; the University gives the highest priority to maintaining regional accreditation and the accreditation of its professional programs. 
  • Providing access to all qualified individuals through a variety of traditional delivery methods and innovative approaches that lower the barriers to an individual’s educational goal;
  • Maintaining a rich community of scholars engaged in teaching, research, scholarship and creative endeavor;
  • Leading change both on campus and in Eastern Montana through civic engagement, economic development, partnerships with K-12 education and a strong public service mission as reflected in programs and activities within the University;

Located in the urban center of Montana, MSU Billings recognizes its energies and resources are inextricably interwoven educationally, economically, socially, culturally, and environmentally with those of the communities of Billings, the Greater Yellowstone Region, and the State of Montana.  With a large population of working professionals, this means taking a leadership role in lifelong learning and in the area of health administration, as healthcare is the largest employer in the area.


MSU-Billings provides excellent instruction, support and learning opportunities in the arts and sciences, as well as professional programs in business, technology, human services, health care, rehabilitation, and education.  The University remains firmly committed to its teacher education programs and its unique, statewide responsibilities in the areas of Special Education, Human Services, and Rehabilitation Counseling.  The University also affirms the value of offering degree programs ranging from certificate programs, through associate, bachelors, and masters programs.


In all its activities the University affirms its commitment to fulfilling its primary mission of preparing students to be productive and responsible citizens with the educational tools needed to pursue meaningful careers and /or service.  The University expects and looks forward to seeing all of its students succeed in their chosen endeavors.


University Motto:  Access and Excellence


College Plans

In addition to a commitment to the University’s nine strategic initiatives, the essential elements of an Academic Master Plan require the strategic initiatives be expanded into goals, the goals into objectives, expected outcomes identified, and specific strategies listed.  In addition, a timeframe in which to achieve the goals and the designation of a responsible party is necessary to ensure success.  The broad goals for each of the nine University strategic initiatives were developed for the Division of Academic Affairs during a Provost Council planning retreat in August 2002.  The Chancellor’s cabinet, the five college Deans, the Director of the Library, the Director of Marketing, and others were in attendance and were participants in the process.  Objectives for each of the Division’s goals were developed by the academic deans of the five colleges and the Director of the Library in individual work sessions with department chairs and faculty in their respective colleges in fall 2002.  Colleges were free to include additional, more college specific, goals in their individual college plans if desired.


Annual Report

Annual reports, due at the beginning of each fiscal year, were intended to keep colleges focused on the plan and be accountable for progress toward the goals. The first annual report of accomplishments was due to the Provost from each College and the Library on July 1, 2003.  The attachments to this Academic Master Plan show the progress each college has made this past year toward accomplishing the goals listed in the College Plan.


Future Directions

The Academic Master Plan is not finished, nor will it ever be.  It is intended to be rolling and iterative and to spur sustained communication, assessment, and continuous improvement.  Immediately following submission of the FY 2004 annual reports, the Deans and Directors will lead their colleges and units in a review and revision of the 2003-2007 Academic Master Plan and extend it through FY 2008.


As we enter into the first revision of the Academic Master Plan, several issues have emerged that need additional discussion and planning.  The first is the identification Montana State University-Billings areas of regional and national distinction.  It is not possible for an institution of our size and resources to achieve national or regional distinction in all academic disciplines.  We have neither the depth of personnel nor the resources to achieve such a goal.  We will need to identify and develop specific areas of distinction for national and regional prominence.  As a part of the dialog for the first revision process the colleges will need to do an honest appraisal of where they have already built a reputation, where there is sustainable student demand, where we have the depth of faculty expertise, and where we can capitalize on our location, or demographics, our current strengths, and our context.  We recognize that for many reasons a program may be critical to the University but may not have a reasonable expectation for a distinctive regional or national reputation.  That being the case, it will be important in the planning process for those disciplines or departments to find ways to align with, and contribute to, the identified areas of distinction.


The second issue warranting additional dialog, discussion, and inclusion in the Academic Master Plan is assessment.  Assessment is the second step in a process we have only begun to understand.  The first step in the process is to identify the expectation (outcome) for each academic goal and objective.  The second step is to measure (assess) the progress toward that stated expectation.  And the third is to use the assessment data to improve the Division of Academic Affairs and the educational experience of our students. 


We have made significant progress in this assessment process in a number of areas.  Specialized accreditation of disciplines has driven a significant shift of attention to assessment particularly in the College of Education and Human Services and the College of Business.  In the past year, the General Education Task Force has developed a framework for assessing general education and the definition of outcomes for general education is a huge step in the right direction.   The biggest weakness in the assessment process is the development of an integrated framework for all of Academic Affairs.  While farther advanced than we were five years ago, assessment is still uneven across Academic Affairs. Equally important and currently spotty is the consistent attention to collection of data and artifacts to support the stated outcomes.  The Academic Master Plan and the unit plans need more specific definition of outcomes expected from the goals developed so means of measurement, whether through quantitative data or other types of artifacts, can be designed to measure those outcomes.  This will be a significant goal for Academic Affairs in FY 2004.


A third weakness of the Academic Master Plan in its current version is a lack of attention to resource allocation and no clear evidence that the fiscal resources of Academic Affairs are tied to the University, Division, and College goals.  One aspect of resource allocation is the development of a personnel resource plan.  Such a plan would require systematic program evaluation including and evaluation of unnecessary curricular expansion that contributes to an imbalance in faculty and staff resources relative to the actual need.  A responsible personnel resource plan will also focus on the areas of regional and national distinction we identify and wish to enhance, and on new program development.


In addition to the three issues discussed above, the first Academic Master Plan has many other issues needing additional discussion and attention such as, but certainly not limited to, developing adequate funding support, attention to graduate education, summer session and intersession, and issues surrounding the balance between online course and degree offerings and traditional format offerings.  In spite of its flaws, the current Master Plan is a very good beginning of a planning process that we are convinced will assist us in reaching the vision we have for Montana State University-Billings.  It is also our first comprehensive annual report of progress relative to the goals set in the Fall 2002 planning sessions.


 In the coming planning sessions and during FY 2004 we will focus on improving three weaknesses of the current plan.  We will work to identify areas of regional and national distinction, develop a clear link between the Academic Master Plan and assessment, and tie resources and personnel to the achievement of the stated goals.