Why might a student from Oregon or Virginia choose MSU instead of a local state school? Since 40% of the student population is from out of state, there must be compelling reasons. Here are some that struck me:
- High-achieving students who seek balance are drawn to MSU. This is a place where people work hard and play hard. The school's generous merit scholarships and excellent honors program attract a smart crowd. Undergrads can get a $1500 research stipend and approx 250 students across all majors do research and share it with the community each April. The school boasts an impressive list of graduate fellowship winners. Honors students usually take two honors courses each term. “Great Explorations” gives them an opportunity to study a country for an entire semester, and then go there for two weeks.
- Amazing professors make a lifestyle choice to teach in Montana. These educators have the credentials and teaching skills to be at the most prestigious schools in America, but they love teaching undergrad students, raising their families in one of the most beautiful places in the country, and experiencing four seasons of outdoor recreation.
- Strong programs in the arts and sciences are the hallmark of MSU.
- Ever thought about a career as a snow scientist? Be prepared for lots of heavy-duty science courses and check out the sub-zero lab at Montana State University. Built a few years ago, it is one of three such labs in the world. (The others are in Switzerland and Japan and the three labs do some joint research.) Students are researching avalanches and better predictive methodology, studying Arctic and Antarctic core samples, permafrost, fish migration, and have come up with some interesting techniques for “manufacturing” snow.
- Yellowstone University is sometimes the school’s nickname, since jaunts to the national park take less than two hours. The school is known for its Yellowstone research and there are even classes available that spend a high percentage of class time in the park (including overnights). Where else might you study the difference between the geothermal features geysers, fumaroles, hot springs and mud pots and then get to see all of them “in action”?
- 2,300 students are engineering majors and the school offers a wide variety of engineering disciplines including chemical, electrical, industrial, civil and bioengineering, as well as both computer science and computer engineering. Engineering students are active participants in “The Grand Challenge”, a cross-university symposium where students use inter-disciplinary approaches to solve our most pressing global problems.
- If you complete film school at MSU, you might join the “Montana Mafia”. This is a group of MSU grads working in the entertainment industry who go out of their way to network and help new grads find industry jobs. The film school is frequently ranked among the top 5 in the country. Montana PBS is on campus and many film students intern there. Like many of the arts programs at MSU, admission to the film school is “gated”. Students take a year of film classes to build a portfolio and then apply for admission into the major. There are spots for 48 per year.
- The School of Architecture has a 4+1 program which means students earn both an undergraduate and master’s degree in five years. The first year is open enrollment. Interested students may take the pre-requisite courses and build a portfolio. Students will need pre-calculus and college physics to pass through the “gate”. There are spots in the major for 91 students per year. Students get ten semesters of design studios and at least three semesters of hand & digital graphics studios. 50% of architecture students study abroad during their fourth year, with the popular destinations being Rome, Asia or South America. Students may also spend a summer participating with classmates at one of their design/build projects in Nepal or Kenya.
- One of the research projects I liked was a collaboration between architecture students and music students. The architecture students had to design a building and then give the design to the music students who composed a piece using it as inspiration. The music students also each composed a piece that was given to the architecture students who then designed a building to “match the music”.
- MSU philosophically believes that competitive programs should gate at the end of freshman year, because many high school students didn’t have exposure or opportunity to build a portfolio or resume. Other gated programs at MSU include photography, graphic design, and nursing.
- As a land grant school, MSU has its roots in agriculture. Animal science, environmental sciences, plant science, sustainable food and bioenergy systems, natural resources and rangeland ecology, and agricultural business are very strong programs.
The MSU Bobcats play Division I sports and athletic events are a huge draw for the students and local community. Intramural sports are also popular. Outdoor recreation tops the list of student activities and students tend to be passionate about hiking, climbing, bouldering, mountain biking, fly fishing, whitewater rafting and kayaking, ice climbing, camping, skiing or snowboarding. Free bus service is available to Bridger Bowl, Big Sky and Moonlight Basin ski areas.
Everywhere I went in Montana the people were warm, friendly and genuinely caring. That was especially true of everyone we met at MSU and throughout Bozeman. From admissions director Ronda Russell (who has more pep than the Energizer Bunny) to physics professor Dr. Greg Francis (who believes the best way to engage students is to do a death-defying demonstration in every class) these folks love what they do. Their enthusiasm is really infectious, and MSU students seem thrilled with their choice of school. (www.montana.edu )