Leading a campus that has grappled with an enrollment drop of some 28.5 percent since 2010, University of Montana President Seth Bodnar announced a restructure Monday that will combine enrollment and communications responsibilities under one vice president.
The reorganization affects cabinet positions, including the recently created post of UM vice president for enrollment and student affairs held by Tom Crady, who was hired in summer 2016 with an unprecedented $70,000 recruitment bonus. The university system justified that move in light of UM's dire situation and Crady's track record.
However, Crady's contract ends June 30, and it was not renewed for the 2019 fiscal year.
"I was disappointed, and I will make a detailed statement later after I've had time to contemplate these actions," Crady said.
Crady came on board to address UM's ongoing enrollment decline, and consultants recently reported he had made headway in recruitment and revenue. The decision caught off guard some members of the campus community who saw evidence the vice president was reversing the drop.
"I'm nervous about what this means for enrollment," said Mary-Ann Bowman, chair of the Faculty Senate. "Tom has been a breath of fresh air and made us feel hopeful."
Bodnar, however, said the change is not tied to the vice president's performance, and he said he has asked Crady to advise him through the transition. He said the change is the outcome of a structural realignment to better meet the needs of UM students.
"It's been clear that organizationally and structurally, there are some silos that still exist for how we communicate, how we tell our story, to various audiences including new students and potential students," said Bodnar, who took the helm at UM in January.
The restructure also means a change for communications director Paula Short, whose current contract runs through June 30. Short will serve as interim head of integrated communications to include admissions and financial aid.
"This will maintain continuity of operations through the transition and will ensure each area has a voice on the leadership team," Bodnar said in an email to the campus.
UM will be recruiting for a vice president who will lead enrollment and communications, and Bodnar said he hopes to have the new cabinet member in place by the fall. Short said she would not apply for the job. Monday, it was not clear if the communications director job or a variation of it would exist as part of the new structure.
In an email, assistant to the president Rebecca Power said her position would not exist under the restructure either. She said she intends to invest in her education and complete her master's degree in public administration, and she supports Bodnar's efforts.
"He needs to put in place the best support structure for himself to ensure the success of his presidency, and by extension, the overall success of the institution," said Power, who has served the office for seven and a half years. "I love this university and want nothing more than to see it succeed."
President Bodnar provided more information about the change in an email to the campus and in a subsequent interview with the Missoulian.
In the email, he said more details on the restructuring would be developed over the next few months. However, he said Amy Capolupo, director of disability services, will serve as the interim head of student affairs and "provide representation on the cabinet." His email said Capolupo will work closely with the associate provost and head of the office for student success to align efforts.
"We have much to do as we move forward," Bodnar wrote. "The goals are clear: a more impactful approach to recruiting and admissions, and a supportive and successful experience for all students once they arrive on campus."
At the Missoulian, Bodnar said consultants recently recommended better integration of outreach and enrollment. He said the administration is aware of other models similar to the one UM is putting into place, such as at Montana Tech, and provost candidates have discussed the same as UM recruits for a second-in-command.
Although the president said he is changing UM's structure, he also praised the skills of campus directors. He said UM has talented professionals in student affairs and admissions and financial aid, and it has "under-invested" in recruitment.
"This is an area where we will be making investments," Bodnar said.
In summer 2016, UM cut $1 million from the enrollment office, leaving $200,000 for the incoming vice president of enrollment. Commissioner of Higher Education Clay Christian later provided $1 million, but to be spread over a couple of years, Crady said earlier.
At a recent budget committee meeting, vice president of finance Rosi Keller said UM was restoring that $1 million to the office.
In presentations to the campus and community, Bodnar has many times said he is in "listening and learning" mode. He is also actively putting in place his own leadership team.
You have free articles remaining.
Shortly after he started, Bodnar created a chief of staff position and hired Kelly Webster of UM to fill it. Webster previously headed the university's Writing Center. UM already has a couple of people in top interim posts, the provost and finance vice president, so within the president's first year, UM could have four new executives in top leadership.
Although UM announced the restructure this week, the president informed Crady in January he would not renew his contract, and informed the commissioner then as well, Christian said.
The commissioner also said the change was tied to UM's structure, and he said it's intended to "define a holistic vision" where admissions, communications, marketing, financial aid, and other functions are working in tandem.
"Tom has been encouraged to participate in this and to help design how this looks," Christian said. "Ultimately we need an organizational flow that brings all the pieces together."
In an organizational chart posted on the president's website, the change decreases the units under the president from six to five, and Bodnar said the restructure ultimately means a better experience for students. In the past, he said, the timelines for producing marketing materials didn't mesh with the needs of the admissions team, for instance.
"That does mean change, but for the long term benefit of the university and success of our students, it's important to make sure we're structured effectively," Bodnar said.
Both Bodnar and Christian said the decision to restructure isn't based on any individual's performance. However, when UM brought Crady on board as its first enrollment vice president, campus and state higher education officials touted his capabilities and approved the bonus.
At the time, the university system needed to pay Crady that money in order to recruit him, and UM is making headway, Christian said: "But there's just more to be done."
Last fall, overall UM enrollment dropped 4.5 percent, and campus officials said the reduction was anticipated given the size of the graduating class; this year shows a similar trend. However, UM saw a bump of 24 students in this freshman class on the heels of an average drop of 104 freshmen since 2011, and it also saw tuition revenue increase.
Communications director Short has not previously led enrollment, but she said UM already has excellent staff in place who will work with Crady's advice to bring in students for the 2018 fall class.
"We have a great admissions team and financial team already on the ground. They are working hard right now to enroll the class," Short said.
The president declined to share enrollment targets for the fall; he said UM has specific goals, but he might not be inclined to make them public and tip off competitors.
UM's enrollment has dropped some 28.5 percent percent since 2010, according to the most recent data posted on the Commissioner's Office website; in the same period, Montana State University's has grown 23.4 percent.
Faculty Senate Chair Bowman said her head was spinning with the news Crady's contract was not renewed, especially given recent reports of the budget cut that took place in enrollment and the uptick in freshman numbers nonetheless.
As she works on recruitment in her own department, Bowman said she had come to rely on the vice president for advice, and she found Crady to be responsive, ethical and informed.
"He knows his stuff. He's knowledgeable and professional, and I just think we have a lot of confidence in Tom," Bowman said.
She said enrollment does not turn around in a year, and she had confidence in the policies Crady was putting in place and the outcomes so far.
"He's just had some really innovative ideas, and it's unfortunate that he will not get to continue on and bring those ideas to fruition. I think they were really in the right direction," Bowman said.
Crady said he was not offered a different contract as part of the planned reorganization and would have to apply for another job in the restructure.
"I've already gone through a national search," Crady said. "I don't believe that it's necessary for me to go through another one. So I will be exploring all job opportunities in Missoula."
Crady confirmed he will advise the president, but he said he isn't certain how that role is defined. He also said he and his wife plan to stay in Missoula.
"Lisa and I love Montana, love the residents of Missoula, and are intending to stay here regardless," Crady said.