TitleInternal Sabbatical Funding for MSU Faculty to Teach in the University Honors Program Request Date2012-11-30
DepartmentUniversity Honors Program
RequestorDr. Ilse-Mari Lee Phone406-994-4689
Campuses Bozeman Billings Havre Great Falls FSTS Extension MAES
Cross Depts MSU Faculty from diverse academic disciplines will be invited to apply in teams of three for internal sabbatical funding for one semester in Honors. Ideally each team would have a representative faculty member from a STEM related field, the Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the Humanities.
Proposed Dates Start: August 15, 2013 End: May 15, 2014
Faculty at Montana State University will be invited to apply for internal sabbatical funding though the University Honors Program. Each semester, a team of three faculty members representing diverse academic disciplines, will be selected to teach an upper-division Honors seminar, focused on a central theme of the faculty's choosing. Topics may include Climate Change, Justice, Renewable Energy, Sustainability, or Montana: The Land and its People. Together with fifteen Honors students, the faculty team will explore ideas and investigate the subject matter, resulting in scholarly papers, presentations and research proposals.
This proposal is well aligned with the objectives of the MSU Strategic Plan, particularly with "discovery". A team of three faculty members, along with fifteen honors students, will research a topic of scholarly interest. In this interdisciplinary setting, ideas will be incubated, explored and discussed. Discoveries will be made. Releasing faculty from their regular teaching duties for a semester will enable the faculty to focus all their energies on one area of research, resulting in scholarly products such as papers, research proposals, or conference presentations. A secondary objective is "integration". By nature of the diverse academic backgrounds of the faculty and students, diverse academic disciplines will be integrated through engagement in shared learning and discovery.
Strategic Objectives:
Discovery: “MSU will raise its national and international prominence in research, creativity, innovation and scholarly achievement, and thereby fortify the university’s standing as one of the nation’s leading public research universities.”
Integration: “By integrating learning, discovery and engagement, and by working across disciplines, the MSU community will improve the world.”
Funding Type: One-Time Only Funding Base (3-yr Recurring) Funding
  FY13 FY14 FY15 Base ($) OTO Startup ($)   FTE;
Salaries 102000             
Benefits 19492             
Materials & Supplies              
Travel 10000             
Contracted Services 5000             
Other Operations              
TOTAL 136492     
Please comment, if necessary, regarding cost and requirements.

Contracted services: $12,000 to each faculty member’s home department to cover the replacement hires for up to two courses, and a $5,000 honorarium to each faculty member for teaching an Honors seminar. 6 faculty members per year: $102,000 

Travel allowance: $5,000 per semester, for each team to bring a speaker or speakers to campus to participate in the seminar and to present colloquia open to the university community and general public, which will be webcasted and made available on the MSU homepage.

KUSM will be contracted to stream, record and archive these lectures on the university homepage. ($5,000)

Benefits were calculated at 19.11%, as faculty members will already have medical insurance. ($19,492)

The class will meet for 4 hours per week, with additional contact hours devoted to research outside of class. Given the academic rigor of the proposed seminar, students will register for 6 Honors credits: 4 for the course work and 2 additional research credits. 

Describe the Proposal

The University Honors Program has a long and exemplary history of providing students and faculty with a venue for inter-disciplinary scholarly inquiry, especially through our upper division seminars. For example, one of our most sought after seminars is “Origins”, taught by Professors Jack Horner (Paleontology), Neil Cornish (Physics) and Michael Miles (Honors). 2012 marked its 6th incarnation. Students literally notify us of their intent to take this seminar in their freshman year and apply to be accepted in the seminar. Students who have taken this seminar include Goldwater Scholars Joe Azzarelli (now at MIT) Casey Donoven (Now at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland); Rhodes Scholar Katy Hansen (Now at Oxford) and Marshall Scholar, Bryan Vadheim (London School of Economics, King’s College London).

We recently added the “Language and the Brain” seminar offered by Professors Jerome Coffey (English), John Miiler (Neuroscience) and Adele Pittendrigh (College of Letters and Science). Due to student demand, we have offered this seminar for three consecutive years.

Over the years, many faculty members have indicated their desire to teach an interdisciplinary seminar in the Honors Program. We have not been able to accommodate these requests, primarily due to the lack of resources for replacement hires. This proposal would remedy this issue.

Furthermore, the guest speakers will elevate the visibility of our institution, and archived video recordings of the resulting lectures and colloquia will serve as a resource to the wider community and also as a recruiting tool. This initiative will undoubtedly contribute to the recruitment of high achieving students and faculty to Montana State University.

This proposal’s benefits are twofold: Our faculty will have the opportunity to devote a semester to a research area of interest, together with colleagues and highly motivated students; and our students will have an unparalleled opportunity to engage in research with inspirational faculty in preparation for graduate studies. This initiative could be a model for other institutions across the nation.

This proposal will elevate the research excellence and recognition of our faculty (D.1) while attacting and retaining top faculty (D.1.1.). The seminar will enhance infrastructure in support of research, discovery and creative activities (D.2). Through the academically diverse backgrounds of the students and faculty, this seminar would increase the integration of learning, discovery and engagement (I.1) and will increase work across disciplines (I.2).

This proposal combines the inherent rewards of a sabbatical leave with the opportunity for faculty to engage with colleagues and students in an interdisciplinary seminar setting, supporting both the discovery and the integration of scholarly research at our university. 

Describe the broader impacts and benefits of this proposal

This opportunity will benefit our faculty, students and the wider community. Our students will have the opportunity to collaborate and contribute to the research endeavor during the incubation period of scholarly investigation, and our faculty in turn will have an opportunity to recharge and pursue an area of research interest as the sole focus of a semester. The scholarly products from each seminar will contribute to the academic discourse in significant and meaningful ways. (D.1.1.)

Furthermore, this seminar will prepare highly motivated students for graduate studies, and will also contribute to the retention of top faculty at MSU. This seminar is key to the continued success of our students in competing for major scholarships, such as the Gates-Cambridge, Goldwater, Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships, by providing the students with a mechanism for engaging in high-level scholarly research as undergraduates. For all these scholarships, significant undergraduate research activity was a key factor in our success in winning these prestigious awards. If approved, we will seek (R) core designation for these seminars.

By recording and archiving the colloquia, a historic record will be available of the proceedings and discoveries of the participants in the seminar. In addition to conference proceedings and publications, this will elevate the recognition of our faculty (D.1), engage the wider scientific community and provide visibilty to our university.

Lastly, during the highly successful Freshman Research Symposium this past fall, 45 faculty members gave presentations on their research to 75+ students interested in undergraduate research. The faculty expressed the need for an academic setting to facilitate interdisciplinary research. The Honors Program is uniquely positioned to do so, as students and faculty in the Honors Program represent all the colleges and most academic departments on our campus. (D.2)

Other strategic objectives and metrics that will be met by this proposal:

We will increase faculty scholarly products with undergraduate students (I.1.4), we will increase the number of students completing interdisciplinary programs (I.2.1) and we will increase interdisciplinary research and creative projects on campus. (I.2.2)

Implementation Plan

Early Spring 2013: Call for proposals, to be reviewed by University Honors Program Advisory Council and followed by faculty interviews.

April 2013: Announcement of fall and spring seminars

Fall 2013: Fall seminar offered. Student and faculty presentations in December 2013, followed by student and faculty evaluations and interviews.

Spring 2014: Spring seminar offered. Student and faculty presentations in May 2014, followed by student and faculty evaluations and interviews.

May 2014: Comprehensive evaluation of seminars

May 2015: Report submitted of scholarly products delivered as a direct result of this initiative.

Assessment Plan

Three main areas will be the focus of assessment.  First, the students will evaluate the faculty involved in the delivery of the course using standard student evaluation instruments. Students will be asked to comment on the course content and inherent value of participating in the seminar/s. The Honors Director will interview the faculty and students at the end of each semester to elicit feedback about the seminar/s with a focus on suggestions for improvement of the student and faculty experience.

Second, the faculty members will provide an in-depth assessment of the students' work beyond the traditional grading system.  A written, detailed assessment of student performance in the course will be produced by the end of the semester and will include suggestions on how the research can continue and be disseminated to appropriate audiences.

The third aspect of assessment will consider the intellectual impact of the work produced by both faculty and students as a result of the course.  Papers and creative work published, submitted, and presented will be tracked for 12 months following the completion of the seminars.

If assessed objectives are not met in the timeframe outlined what is the plan to sunset this proposal?

This is a request for OTO funding. If successful, we will reapply for continued funding.



Department Head: Ilse-Mari Lee (
Dean/Director: David Singel (
Executive/VP: Martha Potvin (