Missoula College Plans for Growth with Interim Dean at the Helm

In October, Missoula College welcomed Jane Baker as interim dean. She takes the reins from Dean Barry Good, who retired last fall, and expects to serve until the new dean is appointed this summer. Baker brings to UM a wealth of experience as a two-year college administrator, having served nearly 20 years as dean of Highlands College of Montana Tech in Butte, Montana.
 
This is her second stint serving in an interim leadership role. Two years ago she left retirement to work as interim president at Dawson Community College in Glendive.
 
“I enjoy the challenges of coming in and helping an institution as it goes through that transition,” Baker said. “It’s difficult when you have your leader leave.”
 
She notes that the transition has been especially difficult for Missoula College, which lost not only Good but also Associate Dean Lynn Stocking, who passed away in November. But Baker believes that her experience at Highlands College of Montana Tech will help to keep the Missoula school’s momentum going.
 
“Coming from an embedded institution has helped me,” she said. “I came in already with the knowledge of how that relationship works.”
 
Missoula College, while offering its own degree programs and campus, is “embedded” within UM as an academic unit. This kind of connection strengthens both the college’s programs and the student experience.
Baker is dedicated to the idea that a community college offers a number of benefits to students who may not be ready for or need a four-year degree program.

“Many students are nontraditional, meaning they are older than the average college student, and it can be frightening to come back to school,” Baker said. “At a two-year college, you don’t feel quite so lost in the whole big system. Students get their start here, and once they get their confidence, they move on to the four-year campus.”
 
She said the college does not know exactly how many students transfer, but the majority of students enrolled in the Associate of Arts degree program express interest in continuing their educations. The college, currently located on South Avenue in Missoula, maintains a strong partnership with UM’s main campus to aid the transition.
 
Baker joins Missoula College at an important time in its history. On August 22, 2014, state and University dignitaries, including Governor Steve Bullock, ceremonially broke ground on a new Missoula College campus. Once complete, the facility on East Broadway will have more than 155,000 square feet of classroom and hands-on laboratory learning space.

Artistic rendering of new Missoula College campus
 
Private support is crucial to the project’s success. Last August Blackfoot Telecommunications Group pledged $500,000 to help fund construction and to provide cutting-edge technology to the new building. Additional commitments from key partners will ensure a grand opening in time for the fall 2017 semester.
 
“I’m incredibly excited about the new building,” Baker said. “It really sends a message from the legislature — and the Montana University System Board of Regents — of support for two-year education.”
 
To learn more, contact Cindy Williams, vice president of development, at 406.243.2593 or cindy.williams@mso.umt.edu.