Bugs, Books, and Buildings; Summer Happenings on the UM Campus
KGVO News spoke to UM’s Director of Strategic Communications Dave Kuntz who first pointed out a part of the university that has been here for the past 126 years; the Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum.
We'll Start with the Bugs and the Zoological Museum
"We have a lot of hidden treasures on our campus with one of those being the Philip Wright zoological museum,” began Kuntz. “This is a museum that's almost as old as the entire university. It's now in its 126th year of operation, and it has over 22,000 specimens that range from animals that are familiar here in western Montana to other things from across the world to insects and kangaroos and pelicans. But it really is Montana's primary home for zoological museum education and outreach.”
Kuntz said construction continues at a furious pace all over the campus.
There are Huge Cranes all over Campus with the Construction
“As anyone who's been on campus lately knows from the sight of the cranes, how much infrastructure improvement and construction is happening on campus,” he said. “When students come back in August they’ll be near the completion of the Montana Museum of Art and Culture, which is over on the north end of campus by the Adams Center, which is one of our oldest museums, but it's never had a permanent home. And along with that, we'll be able to extend Memorial Row all the way down from where it ends at now, by McGill Hall, all the way to the footbridge over the Clark Fork River.”
One of the projects still in the planning stages is the new W.R. Franke School of Forestry.
“The work on the forestry building is largely underway,” he said. “We're out fundraising to get across the final finish line. We did get $25 million from the state of Montana to help with that construction which will help us procure all the wood that's going to be needed to build a 60,000-square-foot building entirely out of Montana Douglas Fir. We're very excited about that, but we're still a little bit away from being able to break ground and get that project going.”
College Enrollment is Down But Kuntz says UM is Holding its Own
Kuntz acknowledged the fact that college enrollment is down across the board, but UM is holding its own in recruiting the next freshman class.
“We've just seen what's called a demographic cliff-hanging before us where just a lot of families stopped having the higher number of kids during the great recession, and as those students get to be high school and college age, we see those demographics impact our recruiting,” he said. “That being said, we're really optimistic about bringing another large freshman class to campus here in August, our applications are up again, meaning we had more students applying to the University of Montana than we did a year ago. And now it's really our responsibility to make sure that many of those students who are here on the fence and making a last-minute decision that we're making the strongest case possible that the University of Montana will be their home for the next four years.”
New student orientation will get underway the week of August 21-25, with classes beginning on Monday, August 28.