All about our students
Bryon Baumstarck and Chuck Lowery swept the inaugural Cobby awards. If you’re not sure what the Cobby Awards are, you’re not alone. This year MSU-B College of Business hosted the First Annual Cobby Awards featuring a number of students from Montana and Wyoming in various computer science related contests. But, it was two Rocky Mountain College students, Bryon Baumstarck and Chuck Lowery, who swept the inaugural year’s awards. In the category of Web page design and layout, Baumstarck, a computer science major, took the top prize for a Web page he created for his advanced philosophy and religious thought course, taught by Dr. Jay Cassel. In the category of Web page content and presentation, Lowery took first place for his work on the Adelphi Christian Academy Web site, and Baumstarck took second for his Web site, Strong Tree Custom Computers. These are just two more examples of the talented students in the RMC Computer Science Department. It is worth noting this department proudly claims a 100% career placement rate before students even graduate from the program. “We have no need to find employers for these students.” Professor K. Stuart Smith says, “They come to us.”
Photo by Dave M. Shumway, RMC ‘07
Rocky Mountain College is anticipating the largest incoming freshman class in its history.
Eyes on Enrollment
Recently, new Methodist Church. I hoped in-coming students the story would relate why for the fall semester, I felt the decision they accompanied by made to attend Rocky their parents, came Mountain College was to the Great Hall and a sound one. The story I welcomed them to was about the rage of campus. They had Hurricane Victor which hit come to pay their fees, the small isolated villages take a look around, and in the southern portion of complete registration. the country of Honduras. I greeted them and You see, a river halves wanted to convey how a remote portion of this much we appreciated Central American country BY MICHAEL MACE their choice as well as and the people who live RMC PRESIDENT thank them for the trust in the small villages on the they had in us with one southern side of the river of the more important could only reach the trade, decisions that can be school and business-related made about the future enterprises in the northern – the kind of education settlements and cities via that determines how well walking up a narrow path to a that future may turn out. bridge up stream. During the Rather than take too much hurricane’s fiercest rage many worried time from their visit extolling the that the bridge to the north would not many attributes of Rocky, I chose survive Victor’s forcefulness. When the to tell a story that I had heard from hurricane subsided the villagers were Elaine Stanovsky, the Bishop of the vexed and anxious to see if the small Yellowstone Conference of the United (Please see Enrollment inside)
Insider Enrollment/from front page bridge had made it through the hurricane’s mayhem. They wondered how they would cross the river to the major markets on the other side if the bridge had vanished. They felt certain the bridge could not have withstood the hurricane’s wrath. To their astonishment, when they arrived at the bridge, it still stood. It was the river that had moved and changed its channel. Like the river, the channels in our life often change too. * * * * Well . . . what does this story have to do with Rocky Mountain College? We all know what a challenging year 2008-2009 has been. It has been a time of transformation and uncertainty; many events and affairs in our lives have changed course. The financial fatigue has affected us all. The hurricane style corrections in our economy have provided moments of angst, consternation and adjustment for many of us. Rocky Mountain College is no different from many educational institutions facing tough times. Increased pressure on tuition and financial aid, declines in household incomes, value corrections in investments and home equities, and more limited access to student loans – all have contributed to troublesome times for enrollment. Recently, Pensions and Investment Magazine reported that the top 100 pension funds in the past year lost all of the financial gains made in the past five years. The impact on colleges is no secret. Big hits were taken. Operating budgets have been trimmed. Tuition increases were lower than expected. There was stagnation in state funding. Family resources were stretched and there was less ability to find the funds for higher education. And for colleges, there was a greater need than ever to now identify tuition-driven revenue. There were troublesome if not unexpected findings in research from consulting firms like Royall & Company about how prospective students would react to higher education: • 60 percent of student applicants were shopping more colleges, widening their search to find greater value • 63 percent planned on applying where the chance of generous financial aid packages was promising • 50 percent of parents were limiting choices to less expensive colleges • 57 percent were choosing less prestigious colleges So, what assumptions should Rocky Mountain College make, given those findings? That question was also complicated by research from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, which reported that from 2009 to 2019, the number of high school graduates could be expected to drop in our region which was traditionally fertile RMC recruitment territory. Examination revealed decreases of 10 percent in Montana; 12 percent in Wyoming; 18 percent in North Dakota; 7 percent in South Dakota; and 1 percent in Washington. So, where will our students come from? Even though enrollment objectives will be daunting in coming years, of course, we will still competitively recruit
from Montana. But we will also beef up our efforts in Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and northern California. All of these states expect 20 percent increases or better in high school graduates from 2009 to 2019. There’s more. Facts from last year tell us that more than one out of five of our students came from 33 other states. Fifty five percent of our students came from Montana, and 22.4 percent from Washington, Colorado, Wyoming and Minnesota. In light of all these statistics and challenges, I believe Rocky Mountain College is in an excellent position and presents enormous possibilities for those who choose to enroll here. We have managed to keep our tuition costs lower than most private colleges in the region. We are a great value for those out of our region too, who willingly pay $35,000 or more per year for tuition. Ours is under $20,000. Our low tuition costs, our quality instruction, low student-to-teacher ratio and aggressive recruitment efforts are paying off. At the end of May our inquiries from interested students was up 446 percent! We have a very competitive merit-based financial aid package, both for transfers and incoming freshmen. Our Board of Trustees sweetened the pot by providing a loan package for students who need additional assistance. And it appears our entering class of freshmen and transfer students will be the largest in the history of the college. The key to our ability to make all of this work, while other colleges might struggle through the enrollment management storm, is attracting students who round out the merit-based scholarship composition as well as the shared learning experience for all who attend. Our prospective students are facing the changes in the course of their lives, but we’re making it easier for students to cross the bridge to a higher education. Our enrollment strategy is creating interest across the country for students and parents alike. Forbes Magazine rates Rocky Mountain College as the best value in the state of Montana. The inquiries show they are finding value here. Our graduates and their parents will spend less money on a college education here because we graduate most students faster than any other college in the region. And when they graduate, no matter what the future holds for them, or what hurricane may come their way, they will be prepared. Students who take advantage of what we offer will always overcome the bad weather in their lives. Our graduates realize and come to appreciate the value of their educational experience by being here. This is due in large part to many of our friends and alumni for having the foresight and the will to “entertain the idea of an annual, major or planned gift.” These donations fund scholarships for coming years as well as this year’s scholarship relief mission. Donations from people like you have renovated Fortin Education Center and Technology Hall. And we are looking now for the balance needed to top off the $7 million raised of the $9 million needed for a new addition and remodel of the science building. This summer we will complete Morledge-Kimball Hall, an expansion of the old Kimball dorm into new faculty offices and seven new additional classrooms. The new building will be open in the fall. Thanks to you, our Rocky students will find that wherever life takes them, they will be ready to cross the bridges and rivers in their future.
Focus on Faculty & Staff
Mark Moak Honored at UCC General Synod Rocky Mountain College Fine Arts Professor Mark Moak is among six distinguished educators who were honored June 29, 2009 at the 27th General Synod of the United Church of Christ, meeting in Grand Rapids, Mich. “Mark Moak embodies in word and deed vibrant teaching ministries in local churches of the United Church of Christ,” according to Rev. Randall Hyvonen, Conference Minister, and member of the RMC Board. “He has been selected in recognition of the critical importance he places on the teaching ministry, for the church and for society.” Mark is an art professor and chair of the faculty at Rocky Mountain College, a UCC-related college. He specializes in teaching jewelry and metalwork, calligraphy, and photography. His art history courses, especially Greek art, come alive because he also has worked for more than 20 years on Minoan excavations at Palaikastro, Crete. He and other researchers sifted through more than seven tons of earth and ancient ash to find pieces of the statue, which was charred by a fire that swept through the prehistoric town of Palaikastro. The statue had been broken into more than 200 pieces. Last October he shared his
20-year odyssey with the entire community by presenting his statue, an intricate replica of the Palaikastro Kouros. Mark also loves music, which is why whenever he has time you’ll find him playing the drums for the classic rock and blues band, Midlife Chryslers, comprised of four doctors and an athletic trainer. The Midlife Chryslers play primarily for charitable causes. Photo by Dave M. Shumway, RMC ‘07 In the summers RMC Professor Mark Moak presented a he and his wife, Rhett, public lecture about his intricate replica of the staff U.S. Forest Service lookout towers, where he Palaikastro Kouros. keeps a wary watch for smoke and a keen interest in nature. Mark is an active member of the First Congregational UCC Church in Billings, Montana. Rev. Hyvonen, who nominated him for the award, accepted the award on his behalf because Mark was away, serving on the lookout tower.
Focus on Alumni & Friends
Frugal Philanthropist During her lifetime Blanche Vavra was known for being thrifty. She grew up in Minnesota and, after graduating from high school, was hired as a clerk for the U.S. Department of Labor. She moved to the U.S. Civil Service Department where she worked until she retired, after 32 years. During her life, she cherished her privacy. She supported her mother after her father’s death. When she retired to Billings, she continued to Blanche Vavra take care of her mom, a Czech immigrant who barely spoke English. She was known as a wonderful neighbor to those who knew her, but also for her frugality. She “made do” with what she had, using an old broom handle as a spade when she gardened, wrapping up in blankets to conserve heat during the winter. She never spent money on clothes or jewelry, but always looked stylish, according to her friends, improvising with dime store costume jewelry. There was a reason for her saving her money. She wanted to give as much of it away as she could. When she died March 2, 2008, Blanche Vavra had accumulated $2.3 million, designated for 11 local nonprofits. It was money from a trust she had been building for most of her working life. Rocky Mountain College was one of those she wanted to help. Quietly and steadfastly, Blanche Vavra created a legacy. On June 23, Moulton Bellingham and First Interstate Bank trust department hand delivered the last check as the estate was being closed. Her total gift to Rocky was just over $300,000.
Photo by Dave M. Shumway, RMC ‘07
Joining RMC Alumni Director Vicki Davison (second from left) for a wonderful day at the 9th Annual RMC Alumni Association Golf Scramble was this year’s winning team (l-r): Kelly McLean, Michelle Corbin, and Dale Boggs.
Biggest and Best Yet
The 9th Annual RMC Alumni Association Golf Scramble topped all previous RMC alumni tourneys with more than 23 teams entered and more than $4,300 raised for the alumni scholarship fund. “We had a perfect day for golf and we had a wonderful time,” said Vicki Davison, RMC alumni director. Special thanks to Mike Schmitt, RMC ’86, of Biomet Osteo Systems, a premier sponsor; and Carl Hansen, RMC ’85, of D.A. Davidson/Hansen Wealth Management, a major sponsor, Davison said. The tournament winning team included Dale Boggs, RMC ’79, from Baker, Mont., Kelly McLean, and Michelle Corbin. Alumni Association Board Member Pete Taylor, RMC’83, served as emcee and handed out prizes at the Red Door, where dinner followed the tournament.
Focus on Alumni & Friends
Architect’s Vision and Service Celebrated A longtime Billings architect, who served as a member of the Rocky Mountain College Board of Trustees and has been a loyal friend of the College, was honored for his service June 25, outside Technology Hall. Wayne Gustafson, who designed many notable buildings in Billings, as well as many buildings and restorations on the RMC campus, has a history with the RMC campus dating to the 1930s. His father was a professor and the family lived in faculty housing located Photo by Dave M. Shumway, RMC ‘07 where Fortin Education Center is today. With Wayne Gustafson (third from right), on a special day honor“Wayne has helped Rocky for decades and still provides valuable service for which we want to show our appreciation,” said ing his contributions to Rocky Mountain College, were (left to RMC President Michael Mace. right) Vaughn Rohrdanz, Connie (Gustafson) Rohrdanz, RMC Vice A rough cut stone – similar to those quarried for many President Brad Nason, Barbara Cooper, Grant Gustafson, Wayne of RMC’s buildings from the nearby rim rock cliffs -- with a Gustafson, Pamela Gustafson, and Terry Steiner, RMC director of commemorative plaque was placed outside Technology Hall. facilities services. Joined by his wife, Pamela, his son, Grant, and his daughter and son-in-law, Connie and Vaughn Rohrdanz, Wayne said he had a “love affair with Rocky since the first day he set foot on its campus.” Gustafson’s signature designs can be seen in schools and churches across the state. Among buildings in Montana, he designed West High, the Billings Gazette, Security Federal Savings and the MSU-B student union building. On the RMC campus he worked on the renovation of the Bair Family Student Center and the Paul M. Adams Memorial Library and Education Resource Center. He continues to provide designs for possible renovations to the RMC Aviation Hall In addition to serving as a trustee on the RMC Board of Directors, he served on the board of First Interstate Bank and was president of the board of the Billings Chamber of Commerce. He is presently president of the board of Western Heritage Center.