Agriculture is Rising Star at Montana State

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS — The college department at Montana State University with the most scholarships and steadily rising enrollment? Could it be agriculture?


Agriculture is the rising star at Montana State University in Bozeman, where President Waded Cruzado recently elevated the dean’s chair to a vice president position. The move means the head of agriculture will be at the table for all major decisions at the university.

“Any way we can elevate the importance of our No. 1 industry — agriculture — at our institutions of higher learning is a win,” said Dave Kelsey, of Lakeview Land and Livestock in Molt. “The vice president of agriculture will sit in on all decisions made by the executive council, even though some of those won’t affect agriculture. Agriculture will have some input on them.”

MSU also announced $250,000 in seed money for an endowed chair of animal science. The goal is to leverage another $1.75 million in private donations for the endowment, which would provide the chairman $80,000 for things like targeted research.

Private donors created a $2.1 million endowment for a plant science chairman, with the intention of advancing research on stopping wheat-stem sawfly damage. The insect does tens of millions of dollars’ worth of damage to Montana wheat annually. The endowment is expected to grow to $5 million.

Errol Rice, Montana Stockgrowers Association executive vice president, said the animal science endowment will be important in keeping animal science curriculum relevant to livestock industry trends.

MSU will also launch the first veterinary medicine program in Montana. The program will allow roughly a dozen veterinary graduate students to complete their first year of study at MSU before transferring to Washington State for the final three.

“We expect to have a full class of students in the fall. We have initiated a process to look at renovating some space to handle it and we do have plans to hire a faculty member,” said Tracy Ellig, MSU Communications director.

Large animal veterinarians are in short supply in Montana. Rice said the cattle industry is hopeful veterinary students studying in Montana their first year will return after graduation.

“It’s got tremendous upside. The cattle industry is very concerned about the shortage of large animal vets in big, rural landscapes,” Rice said. “We’re very optimistic and excited about it being here.”

MSU is now offering $350,000 a year in scholarships to agriculture majors, the most of any college at the university. There are now 1,028 students enrolled in agriculture, with increased enrollment every year for the last six years.

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