Thursday, September 16, 2010

Celebrations of Education


In the past week, we've celebrated some landmark achievements for education in Bozeman, with dedications of new buildings at our learning institutions and new leadership for our university!

Last Friday, Waded Cruzado was inaugurated the 12th president of Montana State University. I am so proud that she now leads my alma mater! She embodies academic achievement, a vision for the university's future, and diversity. Cruzado was born in Puerto Rico, graduated magna cum laude from the University of Puerto Rico and earned her master's and doctorate degrees at the University of Texas--Arlington. She is a product of the land-grant university system. Most recently, she was interim president of New Mexico State University.

Cruzado says that one of the most important missions of a land-grant university like Montana State University is to provide students with at least a few tools to cope with adversity and appreciate the world and their place in it. Another important land-grant mission? Education for a career. Cruzado said, "When you put education in the hands of the sons and daughters of the working class, you give them the power to pursue their aspirations and to participate more fully in their families, their careers, their communities, and their nation."

I'm a proud graduate of a land-grant university, too, our own Montana State University. I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in technical communications and a minor in English. I studied architecture and physics at MSU, too, and was a student senator. With my fellow architecture students, I fought to keep the state’s and region’s only accredited architecture program, now a top architecture school. (One of my fellow architecture students, Scott Bechtle, now an architect here in Bozeman, worked on the Bozeman High School renovation and build. That dedication was this week, too. Nice!)

I was proud to vote in my first legislative session to freeze tuition for Montana university students for the first time in twenty years. I voted for $28 million to renovate Gaines Hall on the MSU campus, the building which houses chemistry and natural science labs, and in which nearly every MSU student attends classes sometime in his or her college career. Gaines Hall was just dedicated in a ceremony yesterday!

The new Gaines Hall retains the structural bones of the original building, but now houses the College of Letters and Science, as well as the labs for chemistry classes, classrooms, beautiful new auditorium rooms, and workspaces where students can get help with chemistry classwork anytime. Nearly every MSU student takes classes in Gaines Hall, and now it's updated, safe, and technologically renewed. The dedication ceremony featured Commissioner of Higher Education Sheila Stearns, Governor Schweitzer, MSU President Cruzado, members of the Gaines family (Gaines, after whom the building was named, was a prominent chemistry professor at MSU for forty years), and the Dean of the College of Letters and Science.

Keeping a world-class university and research institution is key in offering students success. Montanans support higher education. In my first session, I carried the bill to place on the ballot the six-mill levy for university funding, a levy that voters have approved since 1947, and passed again in 2008. Bozeman's own Senator Bob Hawks was the senate sponsor of that bill, too.

Thursday afternoon I attended the dedication and official opening of the newly-renovated Bozeman High School. It was a wonderful event! School board members past and present, honored alumni (some of whom designed and helped to build the new BHS), students and faculty, elected officials, and proud Bozemanites all attended the ceremony.

The project was nine years in the making, a $36 million effort that included improvement to the existing high school and middle school as well as more than 270,000 added square feet of space.

With the new high school, every teacher has a classroom. Students have a more easily accessible campus, with much better circulation and added programs, including the Bridger Alternative High School, moved to the BHS campus last year. Students contributed to the new school design, too; in the courtyard is a raised cement feature that will be painted so that, when viewed from above (as from Google Earth), the Bozeman Hawks logo will be visible!

On the way home from the dedication ceremony at the new high school, I passed a wonderful sight: a BILLBOARD advocating my re-election by the Montana Education Association/Montana Federation of Teachers! It is FANTASTIC! Thank you so much, MEA-MFT! The teachers' groups have endorsed me in this campaign and in my two previous campaigns, and their support is vital and very much appreciated. As I've received a stellar public education, I'll fight to keep quality education a foundation for all Montana kids, and for ample, not minimal, funding for education.

Education is a cornerstone of our society, and the key to success and advancement, both personally and societally. I hope my record of strong support for education, schools, teachers, and students speaks for itself.


I'm proud to support alternative and expanded educational opportunities, too. I serve on the Gallatin College of Technology advisory board. The Gallatin COT offers two-year education tracts in Bozeman in aviation/aeronautics, welding, interior design, and design drafting, as well as developmental instruction in math and writing, and will offer expanded courses in the immediate future. I also voted for the Montana Virtual Academy, to make distance learning opportunities available to all school-age children through public school districts in Montana.

Dedication to quality public education runs deep in my family; my aunt taught 26 years in Great Falls public schools before serving as a principal in two elementary schools there. I was the second person in my family to earn a college degree.

Pursue your lifelong education, and support Montana public schools. I'm proud to!

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