The College of Agriculture and Montana Agricultural Experiment Station (COA/MAES) strategic plan was developed in 2019 with input from faculty, staff, students, alumni, and Montana community members who look to COA/MAES to provide impactful research and education. The plan is intended to guide the College and Experiment Station over the next five years and sets out goals that will ensure the growth and success of transformative education, translational research, and engaging outreach programs that benefit Montana and beyond.

Download the COA/MAES Strategic Plan

Purpose: Why we exist

We transform lives for the benefit of agriculture and society.

Mission: What we do and for whom

We provide transformative education, translational research, and engaging outreach programs to make significant contributions to the agricultural ecosystem and societal well-being in Montana and beyond.

Five-Year Vision: Where we are going and whom we are becoming

The MSU College of Agriculture and the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station will be global leaders in the areas of agricultural, food, natural resource, environmental, and life sciences, known for integrating discovery-based learning, innovative research, community engagement, and outreach to benefit society.


Excellence: we pursue exceptional outcomes through

Scientifically sound research; leadership development; goal- and outcome-oriented professionalism; continuous improvement; development of new technologies; development of relevant, high-quality courses; recruitment and effective on-boarding and mentoring of faculty at the top of their fields; exceptional guidance to students; personal responsibility for our development; and communication of knowledge and innovation to stakeholders.


Integrity: we commit to honesty, ethical behavior, and accountability through

Unbiased responsible research; fair application of policies and procedures; respect and civility to all; earning the trust of others through consistency of actions with stated values and commitments; striving to do what is right; transparent communication; and objective and responsible pedagogical approaches. 


Diversity and Inclusion: we commit to honesty, ethical behavior, and accountability through

Strategically and actively recruiting diverse faculty, staff, and students; incorporating focused activities in our workplace, classrooms, and labs; confronting disrespectful or prejudiced behavior; incorporating civility and diversity into mentoring activities and engagement; treating all people with dignity and respect; actively eliciting diverse perspectives, ideas, and backgrounds to challenge the status quo; fostering respect and appreciation for each person whatever that person's background, race, age, gender, disability, values, sexual orientation, perspectives, or interests; seeking out differing perspectives, ideas, and approaches; recognizing differences in people as opportunities for learning about and approaching things differently; consistently evaluating our initiatives in this area; and making decisions after thoughtful review of input from multiple perspectives.


Collaboration: we believe that working together produces better outcomes through 

Creating partnerships; applying interdisciplinary approaches to teaching, outreach, and research; building and nourishing networks; creating and offering unique opportunities; integrating teaching, research, and outreach; working to remove barriers to collaboration across the organization and reducing distances.


Curiosity: we expect inquiry, exploration, creativity, and innovation through

Securing external grant funding; conducting high-level research; working across disciplines; stimulating student research, teaching, and service opportunities; actively listening; asking questions-challenging the status quo and never stopping to learn; thinking critically and recognizing that failure is natural and important to eventual success.


Stewardship: we care for and conserve the human, economic, physical, and environmental resources entrusted to us by

Ensuring that resources are effectively and efficiently used in support of the MSU mission; rewarding achievement; being thoughtful and effective in evaluation; communicating return on our investments; attracting and effectively using resources with transparency and accountability to advance our mission; maintaining sustainable management of resources; and maximizing the value of our human, financial, and physical resources in ways consistent with our purpose, mission, and values.


Focus area goal: empowering people and providing an environment for individual and organizational excellence


Build a culture of recognition (financial and professional) and appreciation that confirms the importance of faculty and staff to the success of the college, values and encourages effective communication, values and encourages partnerships, and empowers faculty to conduct excellent research especially with a focus on the Grand Challenges.

(Alignment with MSU Choosing Promise goals 2.1, 2.3, 2.4, 3.3)


Improve organization, inclusivity and team-building efforts.

(Alignment with MSU Choosing Promise goal 3.3)


Create a larger network and opportunities across COA/MAES to participate in teaching, research, and service.

Focus area goal: to advance innovative research to enhance local and global impact


Facilitate and encourage interdepartmental and interdisciplinary collaborations through (a) fostering interdisciplinary research to address Grand Challenges; (b) prioritizing shared labs and facilities; (c) developing department and college-level strategies for valuing, incentivizing, and highlighting/recognizing interdisciplinary research; and (d) developing research that is relevant to Montanans but scalable nationally to increase broader recognition of COA/MAES as a leader in agricultural, food, natural, environmental, and life sciences.

(Alignment with MSU Choosing Promise goals 2.2, 3.3)


Build on current research strengths by: (a) enhancing regional and national reputation of current strengths; (b) leveraging historical strengths and unique areas of research to increase external funds, new partnerships, and recruitment of faculty, staff, and students; (c) assess ability to encourage disciplinary leaders outside of MSU to visit COA/MAES to increase awareness of MSU researchers and create new collaborations; and (d) develop strategies for creating a culture of recognizing and incentivizing high-impact R&D within and across units, especially research that focuses on addressing Grand Challenges.

(Alignment with MSU Choosing Promise goal 2.3)


Increase graduate student numbers, with a particular focus on Ph.D., through: (a) developing more transparency of current GRA/GTA distribution and strategic assessment of future distributions; (b) increased monitoring of graduation rates and job placements, and (c) assessing strategies for recruiting new students, both on the main campus and at the seven Research Centers.

(Alignmentwith MSU Choosing Promise goals 1.2, 2.1)

Focus area goal: develop competent life-long learners and leaders who excel in their chosen career and life experiences


Explore opportunities for incorporating local research in labs and classrooms, and bring MAES and Research Centers into the classroom through highlighting their missions, current research projects, and through guest lecturers in appropriate classes.

(Alignment with MSU Choosing Promise goals 2.1.3)


Explore certificates, stackable credentials, accelerated program opportunities, and opportunities for increasing online classes for graduate students, with a particular focus on more effectively engaging employers to understand industry needs for student training.

(Alignment with MSU Choosing Promise goals 1.1, 1.2, 2.2, 3.2)


Increase access to COA undergraduate programs through developing a College-wide recruitment plan that includes focused recruiting in Montana, and with a specific effort on identifying opportunities to increase tribal K-12 relationships and tribal student enrollment.

(Alignmentwith MSU Choosing Promise goals 1.1, 3.2)

Focus area goal: to promote community-based partnerships and share knowledge to improve life and society


Identify a common definition of outreach and engagement and metrics to measure efficacy and impact; create a common category for reporting in Activity Insight across all units.


Build an inventory of our current collaborations and work with MSU Extension and stakeholders to identify gaps in outreach and engagement.

(Alignment with MSU Choosing Promise goal 3.2)

Focus area goal: build and maintain enduring partnerships to advance the land-grant mission


Increase communication and interaction with commodity and allied organizations by engaging with these organizations at their annual conventions and by assessing opportunities to engage with the Montana Ag Coalition and natural resource agencies/entities.

(Alignment with MSU Choosing Promise goals 3.2)


Develop a framework for educating, training, and mentoring COA/MAES faculty about the available resources for (a) efficient and effective communication, (b) building partnerships, (c) developing effective outreach/engagement programs, (d) leading effective advisory committees, (e) using the Technology Transfer Office, and (f) assessing current needs of employers.

(Alignment with MSU Choosing Promise goal 3.3)

Focus area goal: develop and improve efficient and transparent business practices


Develop a biennium legislative funding plan that will: (a) build on proposed and funded initiatives from the previous plan and (b) develop, justify, and prioritize strategic funding initiatives for upcoming sessions.


Develop a process for (a) assessing inventory of college-level resources, (b) identifying opportunities for sharing of facilities and other resources, and (c) establishing a process for managing and maximizing the cost-effectiveness of shared resources.

(Alignment with MSU Choosing Promise goal 2.1, 2.2)


Assess (a) current staffing requirements for the college, (b) ability to incentivize outreach/engagement activities, (c) ability to incentivize and support faculty so they can be more responsive to national and regional calls for grant opportunities, especially those that associate with Grand Challenges, and (d) strategic investment in research support personnel. Then, develop a strategic investment prioritization and proposal process to address needs over short, medium-, and long-run horizons.

(Alignmentwith MSU Choosing Promise goals 2.1, 2.2)

Focus area goal: enhance the quality of our communication internally and externally


Assess (a) the type, content, and frequency of internal communication that faculty and staff would like to receive, (b) communication effectiveness with existing partnerships and opportunities for future partnerships, and (c) existing engagement and outreach strengths and opportunities for building on those efforts.

(Alignment with MSU Choosing Promise goals 3.2)


Develop annual "State of Strategic Plan Progress" reports to update faculty and staff about the progress being made on the actions laid out with the strategic plan.


Improve the presentation quality, layout optimization, navigability, and searchability of the COA and MAES websites to: (a) improve external and internal users to more effectively understand the breadth of MAES research and locate areas of interest, (b) clarify and identify areas of expertise of MAES faculty at MSU and within countries, (c) determine natural research complementarities across departments, and (d) enhance the level of engagement by potential industry partners.

(Alignmentwith MSU Choosing Promise goals 2.2, 3.2, 3.3)