Seth Bodnar: University of Montana's new president and a 'Man on - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

Seth Bodnar: University of Montana's new president and a 'Man on a Mission'

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MISSOULA -

A string of alleged sexual assaults. A declining student enrollment. Budget cuts. Faculty layoffs.

The once-shining reputation of the University of Montana has been tarnished in recent years.

2018 ushers in a new year and new changes for the University of Montana.

The biggest: a new leader, Seth Bodnar.

In his first television sit-down interview, ABC FOX Montana's Angela Marshall spoke with this new president, who tells her that he's a man on a mission.

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"This is a great institution," says University of Montana President Seth Bodnar.

Bodnar is a former senior executive at General Electric, which is a company that is scattered across the globe. 

He was responsible for long-term strategy and business transformation. 

Before that, the West Point graduate holds a distinguished military career-- notably, a green beret.

He is a Rhodes and Truman scholar and holds two masters degrees from the University of Oxford.

Still, he was considered by some as an unconventional pick for president.

It's this diverse background that, he says, will help the university succeed into the future.

"I think, exactly what the world needs, the students needs today to succeed in a very complex, dynamic market that I've lived in for that past two decades."

But he steps into the position at a time when UM is wavering.

"You know, there's change. And changes happens throughout, yeah, a 125-year old institution."

Since 2011, the number of students coming to u-m has steadily dropped.
Plagued by loss in tuition and state budget cuts, it's had to make some tough choices.
Laying off faculty and staff, re-evaluating and cutting programs…

"Of course, there will be evolutionary change."

... and being thrust unwillingly into the national spotlight, following a string of sexual assault reports, the most high-profile involving a football player.

"I think the issue of sexual assault, and I see more broadly, sexual harassment is an issue that every campus across this country and every community across this country is grappling with. This university has made great progress in terms of its efforts to address this issue. But this is an issue. This is something that we work on and we're never done."

The sexual assault scrutiny bubbling up again this fall with the re-hiring of Head Football Coach Bobby Hauck.

A UM graduate student protested with community and faculty members joining in by signing her petition.

Bodnar says that his expectations are clear:

"Our athletic programs, fundamentally, are about developing leaders of character. They're students first and they're learning important lessons on those fields on those courts that are going to benefit them throughout their life. That's what our athletics programs are about. But to be clear, the issue of sexual assault is independent of who the football coach is. The issue of sexual assault is one that we all are responsible for. We're all responsible for having effective policies in place for education, for training, for response and support."

And piggy-backing on the work that has already been done, he says he will amplify it forward to excel the University of Montana another 125-years.

"This is the most important mission of my lifetime: the mission of higher education, especially in an institution that is focused on accessibility, affordability and quality. I can't think of a more important thing to be doing right now."

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While it goes without saying, this will likely not be ABC FOX Montana's last conversation with Seth Bodnar.

As part of a continued effort to increase transparency of the state institution, ideas have been brought up for regularly-scheduled meetings with the new president in order to, not only discuss the issues the university is facing, but the great work that is being done by everyone wearing maroon and silver.

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