Missoula philanthropists to receive honorary doctorates from UM

talbotsMissoulians John and Sue Talbot will receive Honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters at the University of Montana commencement ceremony tomorrow. The Talbots are being recognized for their long and generous service to both the university and the community. John Talbot is a former publisher of the Missoulian newspaper, and the journalism building on the University of Montana campus is named after Sue Talbot’s father, Don Anderson, a well-known newspaperman. The Talbots have supported and been active in dozens of community and university organizations.  In tonight’s feature interview, News Director Sally Mauk talks with the Talbots about their love of UM and Missoula, and why they think both the town and gown have a bright future. The Talbots met in college when Sue was attending Radcliffe, and John was at Harvard..

UM President speaks about the pain of budget-trimming

Engstrom       The University of Montana won’t know till fall how many students are enrolled but UM expects to see another drop. Last fall, UM had 700 fewer students than the previous year, and the school expects, in a worst case scenario, they could be down another 450 this coming fall. Administrators are trying to plan for that. In this feature interview, UM President Royce Engstrom talks with News Director Sally Mauk about how UM is dealing with that projected shortfall.

Retired professor still working for peace at 92

photo    Retired University of Montana professor and long time peace activist Meyer “Mike” Chessin is the winner of this year’s “Peacemaker Award” from the Jeanette Rankin Peace Center. Chessin has spent most of his 92 years advocating for peace and progressive causes. In this feature interview, he talks with News Director Sally Mauk about his lifelong commitment to that work. Chessin grew up in the Bronx, was educated at UCLA and Berkeley, and began teaching botany at the University of Montana in 1949, retiring in 1990. He says his interest in peace began when he was in the army, and was posted to Berlin in 1945 – a city nearly destroyed by war.

“Grateful Nation” statue designated Montana’s official Iraq/Afghanistan war memorial

Photo Courtesy the University of Montana

Photo Courtesy the University of Montana

A University of Montana memorial to soldiers lost in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars has been designated the state’s official memorial to those conflicts.

Governor Steve Bullock signed the bill Monday recognizing the memorial spearheaded by the group Grateful Nation Montana.

President David Bell says his group was founded in 2007 to provide tutoring and mentoring to the children of Montana soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The group also provides a full year college scholarship to those children. The idea for the memorial came afterward and the bronze statue of family members standing before a soldier’s boots, rifle and helmet was unveiled on the University of Montana campus in November of 2011. Bell says the statue provides a tangible symbol of the group’s commitment to the families of those killed in battle.

 “This provides us an opportunity to stand there and reflect on the 42 names and their hometowns in Montana and their short lives and it gives us an opportunity as civilians to reflect upon the enormous sacrifice,” Bell said.

Governor Steve Bullock signed the bill recognizing the statue as the official Montana memorial to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars surrounded by state military and University leaders as well as veterans’ families. He says he’s happy to acknowledge the work of Grateful Nation Montana, including the memorial “and also placing it there, the recognition that contemporary days now, our Universities are supporting our fallen soldiers and the relationships. And it just made great sense and it’s exciting to see it done.”

The bill sponsored by Representative Champ Edmunds (R-Missoula) was unopposed in both the House and Senate.

Photo Courtesy Governor Steve Bullock's Office

Photo Courtesy Governor Steve Bullock’s Office


Budget, retirement, friendship and getting hosed – all on Capitol Talk

Johnson, Mauk & DennisonSMALLOn this edition of “Capitol Talk”, our weekly legislative analysis program, News Director Sally Mauk talks with Lee newspaper reporters Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison about the House’s unusual unanimous passage of the state budget, the fate of Medicaid expansion, the competing plans to bail out state pensions, and the rift between two long time political allies, over remarks about the conduct of some University of Montana football players…

2-year college looking to expand its 4-year opportunities

Flathead Valley Community College is asking community members to weigh in on what bachelors degree programs it would like to see available in the Valley.

Flathead Valley Community College is asking community members to weigh in on what bachelors degree programs it would like to see available in the Valley.

Flathead Valley Community College currently offers several bachelors degree options through partnerships with Montana universities, and is considering adding more to the list. The college has sent out an email to businesses across the Valley asking what four-year degrees would be most beneficial to the individual businesses, and to the valley as a whole. Director of Institutional Research for FVCC Brad Eldredge said the college is not looking to become a four year institution itself, rather it wants to explore whether it could become a “University Center,” or “Higher Education Center” – a space for the state universities to offer their courses on the Kalispell campus.

Eldredge said there’s a market for the traditional student leaving the Valley for college right after graduating high school, but there’s also the non-traditional route.

“There’s also place-bound adults with families that don’t have that flexibility anymore,” Edlredge said, “We’d like to have an opportunity for them to go to the four-year level and beyond.”

The College is asking to hear back from community members by April 15th.

There are several graduate degree programs from state universities facilitated through FVCC, but here’s a list of bachelors degree programs currently available:

Montana State University – Billings

  • Applied Science
  • Mass communication
  • Organizational Communication
  • Business Administration
  • Education
  • Health Administration
  • Liberal Studies
  • Public Relations

Montana State University – Bozeman

  • Nursing

University of Montana – Missoula

  • Social Work

Montana Tech University of the University of Montana

  • Health Care Informatics

University of Great Falls

  • Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Paralegal Studies
  • Psychology
  • Criminal Justice

Advertising exec and UM grad gives $1.25 million to his alma mater

tim-oleary-bio-picTim O’Leary got his start in advertising as an undergraduate working for a student group at the University of Montana. O’Leary is now chairman and co–founder of the R2C Group – an advertising conglomerate based in Portland. O’Leary was back at UM today, to make a 1.25 million dollar gift to the university. In this feature interview, O’Leary talks with News Director Sally Mauk about his advertising career, and why he wants to give back to his alma mater. O’Leary co-founded the R2C Group with his wife and business partner Michelle Cardinal –

Sally Mauk talks legislative priorities and federal investigations with UM President Royce Engstrom

University of Montana President Royce Engstrom is having a busy winter, preparing arguments for the legislature, hiring a new Cabinet, and steering the campus through two federal investigations and an NCAA investigation. In tonight’s feature interview, Engstrom sits down with News Director Sally Mauk to talk first about legislative priorities. Those include making sure the university system gets a boost in funding to cover inflation and other rising costs:…

Sally Mauk talks “image” with UM’s new Vice President for Integrated Communications, Peggy Kuhr…

PeggyKuhrThe University of Montana has named former School of Journalism Dean, Peggy Kuhr, as its new Vice President for Integrated Communications. Kuhr had served as interim vice president since August and was head of the search committee for the job when she recently decided she wanted to apply for the permanent position. In this feature interview, Kuhr talks with News Director Sally Mauk about why she wanted to move from the journalism school into Main Hall…


Mark Hanson Commentary: “Voting Intuitions”

One question you’re less likely to be asked during this election season is, How are you deciding whom to vote for? We like to think we make the choices we do because we have good reasons. We’re rational creatures after all, aren’t we?

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt argues, however, that when it comes to ethics and politics, reason actually takes a backseat to intuitions—our gut feelings. First we intuitively “see that” something is true or right; then we use reason to argue why. The role of intuition in our judgment is even more obvious when we simply believe something without even knowing why.

Our experience would seem to confirm this. Have you ever tried to change the mind of someone on the other end of the political spectrum by offering reasons? Such efforts may even be counter-productive, causing people to cling to their beliefs even more fervently despite the evidence.

For example, if you’re a Republican, and I offered you evidence that public debt as a share of GDP and wealth inequality grow faster under recent Republican administrations than under Democratic ones—which is, in fact, true—would you likely change your view that Republicans are the more fiscally responsible party?

Political campaigns, in fact, rely upon our failure to reason. They see people change their views based on ads distorting the truth, depicting opponents in black and white images with contorted faces, and uttering phrases taken out of context. It’s silly, it’s dishonest, but it works.

Haidt’s view on the primacy of intuition over reason is not entirely new, but his work does add evidence to support it. This is troublesome to those of us who like to think that the best way to achieve solutions to problems lies in people reasoning together about hard facts and moral values.

Haidt does not believe, however, that reason is irrelevant. The way to create change, he argues, is by calming the passions and fostering conditions within communities whereby people can make more effective appeals to intuitions and reasons. Such communities would be supportive of good thinking and compromise, and would shame hyperpartisanship and inflexibility. To quote Haidt: “Reasons matter, but only at the right time, when countervailing intuitions have been turned off.” [end quote]

If Haidt is correct, how might we think about our intuitions in relation to how we will vote this November? Rather than examine intuitions issue by issue, I would take Haidt’s cue and start with our overall approach to politics. First, we should acknowledge that ethical and political choices almost always involve trade-offs. We want jobs and wealth, for example, but at what cost? At the expense of the environment, public health, or our sense of fairness? What’s your intuition about which candidate or party is more likely to find more reasonable balances between such competing interests?

Second, we need a government that actually functions to solve complex problems in a diverse society. So I would emphasize Haidt’s own conclusion about what is necessary for reason to find a place in solving our problems more productively. Whether we want a bigger or smaller government, most of us recognize that we need government to accomplish certain things we can’t do ourselves and to guarantee individual rights. But if government is to work in a society that, like it or not, has citizens with diverse intuitions on big issues, what does your intuition tell you about what kind of candidate to vote for—one who favors working together, or one who opposes compromise? Which candidate or party is more likely to foster a community that talks together about intuitions and reasons, rather than cultivating division and hyper-partisanship?

Finally, what is your intuition on whether things like evidence, reason, and truth-telling should have any role at all in politics? If you don’t like the fact that such things are increasingly scarce, which candidate is more likely to support those values?

My intuition tells me that a society that abandons respect for truth is in trouble, and any political system that gives it up fosters the kind of cynicism we’ve seen grow with each passing election. Reality matters. And sooner or later, intuitions confront it.

So as you make your decision this election, here’s a final plug for reason to accompany your intuitions. Offering reasons for our decisions remains a central responsibility for us as moral human beings. Intuitions can too easily reflect dangerous prejudices. They are the all-too-easy refuge for those who simply don’t take the time from busy lives and technological distractions actually to think, examine evidence, and test their views. Relying only on intuitions, which may be misguided, is irresponsible.

So look at your intuitions. Then examine them in the light of evidence. What do your intuitions, and the facts, say about who and which candidates are likely to lead us in a better direction? We’re rational creatures after all, aren’t we?

Mark Hanson is a guest commentator for the Mansfield Program in Ethics and Public Affairs at the University of Montana.