Montana State University to Build Dedicated Nursing Campus in Kalispell 

The MSU satellite program, which has trained nurses in the Flathead Valley since 2002, will finally have a dedicated home where students will partake in classes, interactive labs and college events. The building will be funded by a $101 million gift from Mark and Robyn Jones.

By Denali Sagner
Logan Health, formerly Kalispell Regional Healthcare, pictured on May 19, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Kalispell satellite campus of Montana State University’s (MSU) nursing school will soon have a dedicated home thanks to a donation from insurance billionaires Mark and Robyn Jones

An arm of MSU’s Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing, named for the couple, the Flathead Valley campus has trained nurses in Kalispell since 2002. Without a dedicated building, the Kalispell program has bounced between rented spaces at Logan Health, formerly Kalispell Regional Medical Center. With a historic $101 million philanthropic investment, MSU will soon break ground on new educational buildings on each of its satellite campuses, expanding the statewide program’s ability to train homegrown nurses. 

“We just have never really had our own space,” Kalispell Nursing Campus Director Kaki Mendius said, discussing plans for the new building. “We’ll have a home.” 

The planned facility in Kalispell is part of a 2021 gift to MSU from the Joneses — the largest gift ever given to MSU’s nursing school and the largest private gift in the history of the state of Montana. In addition to new buildings, the gift is set to fund five endowed faculty professorships, an endowed scholarship fund and the creation of Montana’s only certified nurse midwifery program. 

Born in Alberta, the Joneses amassed their wealth as the founders of Goosehead Insurance, a Dallas-based insurance company worth $2.75 billion. The couple owns a 260-acre property on Big Mountain, as well as 126,000 acres of forested timberland west of Kalispell. 

MSU’s Kalispell location is one of five satellite campuses across the state. MSU nursing campuses train students in Billings, Great Falls, Bozeman, Missoula and Kalispell. The Kalispell program boasts 22 faculty and 68 students, with opportunities for students to earn a bachelor’s of science in nursing on a traditional or accelerated schedule. Students take prerequisite courses at Flathead Valley Community College or MSU before finishing their degree at the MSU satellite campus. The program trains traditional students who are finishing up their bachelor’s degree, as well as non-traditional students.

The Kalispell nursing program partners with Logan Health, as well as the Flathead City-County Health Department and Community Health Center. 

Mendius said that while she is grateful for the partnership with Logan Health, having a dedicated building will allow the program to offer a fuller range of educational opportunities to students. The nursing school is currently housed in the basement of the Logan Health Medical Arts Building, which has no windows and “wasn’t built for a nursing campus.” The program’s current location also limits the program’s ability to expand. According to Mendius, the one major goal is to “grow and provide more nurses for the valley.” With the new space, the campus director expects to be able to double the number of participating students in the coming years. 

Mark and Robyn Jones meet with visit with nursing students. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.

Construction crews will break ground on the new nursing building on April 23. The building, which will be located at the northeast corner of Windward Way and Heritage Way, will include classroom space, as well as interactive labs where students can practice with simulations. Mendius said that students practice with simulations every semester, and that having a lab set up for simulation course work will help bolster “that really important part of our curriculum.” The added space will also allow the program to host events such as the white coat ceremony, where nursing students are officially “welcomed” into the profession. 

The land for the building was donated by Logan Health.

Sarah Shannon, dean of MSU’s college of nursing, said in a statement, “These new buildings will provide students with a better learning experience and allow us to enroll more students to help meet the nursing shortage in Montana.” 

The expansion of the nursing school comes at a time when communities across the United States are facing a dire nursing shortage. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that more than 275,000 additional nurses will be needed between 2020 and 2030 to keep up with workforce demands. The shortage can be attributed to an aging population, burnout in the profession and the lingering stresses of the pandemic. 

“We’re very happy to be able to expand our numbers,” Mendius said, adding that there is a need for nurses in clinics, hospitals, schools and other settings across the valley. 

She noted that the majority of nurses trained at the MSU Kalispell campus stay in the Flathead Valley. 

“We want to grow in a way that works for the community,” she added. 

There will be a groundbreaking ceremony at the northeast corner of Windward Way and Heritage Way on April 23 at 11 a.m.

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