University of Montana President Royce Engstrom,  a lightning rod for criticism ever since he announced budget and staff cutbacks due to continued reduced enrollment, told KGVO News that he is still 150% committed to seeing the job through.

Late Wednesday evening, Engstrom had just returned from an extended meeting of the ASUM Student Senate.

"These are challenging discussions we're having at the University of Montana," Engstrom said. "I just spent a couple of hours with the student senate I and three members of the cabinet talked with the students and answering questions. Our student senate are remarkable young people with some challenging questions. The one that really stands out is 'what is the role of liberal arts at the University of Montana, and are we in some way de-emphasizing the liberal arts?' and I told the students most emphatically, that is not the case."

"We are not anticipating eliminating one single liberal arts or what you call humanities program on the undergraduate level," Engstrom continued. "We feel that the liberal arts are so central to who we are as a university and we want them all to be continually represented here. That does not mean that we are enrolling the same number of students that we had a few years ago in those programs, and so we do have to make staffing adjustments, not only to those programs, but to others on campus."

When asked about the most serious problem facing his presidency at the University of Montana, Engstrom immediately replied - enrollment.

"It really is enrollment," he said. If you look at all the other aspects of the university, things seem to be going well. Our research programs seem to be going very well, our fundraising through the University of Montana Foundation is at record levels, academic innovation on the part of the faculty is going strong, and athletics is great, as well.  Yes, it's enrollment, for two reasons. Certainly the financial repercussions that we have all been discussing, but more fundamentally than that, we want more students to get the great education that only we can give. and if they're not coming here, what do we need to do to make sure they do come here."

Engstrom spoke about the constant drumbeats of criticism aimed at Main Hall and his administration, and if he ever considers resigning, as some have publicly asked him to do.

"I believe so strongly in what we are doing here at the University of Montana, that I am 150 percent committed to continuing to build this institution into the finest university it can possibly be," he said. "I am totally committed to making sure that we come through this particular situation in good shape, and we emerge at the other end as a stronger, more vibrant university."

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