MISSOULA - He’s a little bit country. And a little bit rock n’ roll. And when he gets time he wants to be a better fisherman.
But for now, new University of Montana President Seth Bodnar is passionately focused on hitting the ground running.
“This is a great university that provides exactly the type of education that I believe students need to be successful in the world that they’re entering. The world I’ve lived in for the past two decades, in the government, in the military, in business," Bodnar said. "And this is a university that is very well suited to meet the needs of those students to succeed, not just in their jobs, but in their life.”
Sit down with Seth Bodnar for a few minutes you’ll catch his enthusiasm for the future. He doesn’t complain about rapid change. He embraces it and sees UM as a “model of innovation and excellence”. A school applying strengthens to the “greatest opportunities”. Trying new research to solve problems.
He uses water scarcity as an example, saying UM has the interdisciplinary tools to tackle the question from the biological, the ethical and legal.
“While the mission will drive us, of our students, we also have thousands of people that come to work here at the University of Montana every single day. And how do we make this not only a great place to work, but a place where every single one of our employees can reach their full potential?'
Bodnar comes onto a campus that’s had rough times as its 125th birthday approaches. So how will he tackle that general “grouchiness” that’s hung over campus?
“Every organization goes through change and maybe some tougher times. But I would tell you the ground truth is that this place is full of high energy students, incredibly talented, hard-working faculty members. And it’s a privilege for me to be here. I see my job as ‘how do I do everything I can to make not just out students successful, but our faculty, our staff, every single employee successful here.’ Because people are really positive about this place.
“This is a great institution. it has changed the lives of literally hundreds of thousands of Montanans and young people from around the country. We’re going to continue to focus on that great work,” he added.
Ask him about his favorite artists, and he fits in with Missoula’s eclectic playlist.
“Garth Brooks, I’m a big Garth Brooks fan. Some of the newer stuff is a lot of fun. I love Zach Brown Band. I really enjoy Bruce Springsteen.”
“And I love the outdoors. I love working out. I love hunting, fishing. I’m looking forward to honing those latter two skills when I get some time. I’m not sure when that’s going to happen. But it’s just to be a place that we love, in an institution that is so impactful, and just the beautiful surroundings in which we get to work. It’s an incredible privilege.”
Bodnar also says in a time of “significant division” in this country, UM can be the kind of place where “free, informed, respectful exchange of ideas can happen.”