On a blustery, rainy afternoon, several Montana dignitaries gathered just offshore of the Clark Fork River today to officially break ground on construction of the Missoula College’s new site.
Officials expect construction of the $32 million project to last about two years, after nearly eight years of planning and some controversy. College officials considered several other sites, including the 90-year-old university golf course, before funding complications and public protest forced them to look elsewhere.
Gov. Steve Bullock joined University of Montana President Royce Engstrom, Missoula College Dean Barry Good, Mayor John Engen and several others in addressing a crowd of several hundred people.
Dean Good described the new campus as essential for faculty to provide a 21st century teaching environment for students.
“The new facility is so important because it provides modern classrooms fit with the latest technology, properly equipped laboratories, modern offices, and the interactive spaces that are required for Missoula College faculty to offer a top-notch 21st century education.”
Asa Hohman and Sarah Smith also addressed the crowd about their experience at the two-year college. Both are former Missoula College students pursuing four-year degrees, and current members of the Associated Students of The University of Montana.
Smith, now an ASUM Senator, said the college’s move is more than just superficial. It’s a necessity.
“All Missoula College students, who’ve struggled to sit through classes in sweltering heat or frigid cold - all of these students are gaining the ability to study and grow without additional, unnecessary obstacles.”
During a brief press conference, President Engstrom said Missoula College, which currently enrolls nearly 2,500 students, has always given people who couldn’t attend the University of Montana other educational opportunities, but inside facilities that were just too old and small.
In addition to business, health, and culinary programs, Engstrom said the new campus will add an expanded computer technologies program and new fields of study.
“We are just now starting a certificate program in cyber security, a new area for us. So we will keep developing programs like that over the course of the next several years as the needs grow and come up for us.”
Engstrom said the Missoula College’s new site one mile away from the main campus would give students access to the Mansfield Library, food service and the Curry Health Center.