Gianforte Family Foundation helps University of Montana

Gift will help enrollment in computer science

The Gianforte Family Foundation once again has shown its dedication to supporting education and job creation in Montana, pledging $290,000 to the University of Montana’s Department of Computer Science.

The two-year gift will help the department grow its enrollment capacity, ultimately graduating more computer science majors and minors for careers in Montana’s growing technology sector.

In Montana and nationwide, high-tech jobs go unfilled because there aren’t enough graduates with computer science training. In addition, more and more careers use computing in their respective fields. To address this, UM’s computer science department worked with the Gianforte Family Foundation to develop a plan to increase enrollment and grow course offerings by creating courses that show the relevance of computing in other disciplines. These new offerings allow for a cross-disciplinary computer science minor and provide students with a broader skillset for today’s technological workplace.

The Gianforte Family Foundation’s generous gift will underwrite two new lecturers, allowing the department to expand sections of its introductory computing classes and create a new foundational course, Interdisciplinary Computing. The department’s goal is to double the number of computer science majors and minors during the next five years.

“Computer science is a growing and needed field,” said Andrew Ware, professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science. “By building our department, we can help more students find high-paying jobs and fill a need in the state’s economy.”

“Computing is increasingly important across many academic disciplines and careers,” said Greg Gianforte, foundation board member. “We’re excited to work with the University of Montana to help expand cross-disciplinary computer science courses for all students on campus, and to help connect these students with good jobs in Montana.”

The first lecturer was hired over the summer and started teaching this fall. A second will join for the 2017-18 academic year. In addition to the lecturer positions, an existing professor will work with local businesses to develop internship opportunities and help students attain them.

This is the second recent gift from the Gianforte Family Foundation to support UM students. In 2015, the foundation began funding the Gianforte Manufacturing Scholarships, a statewide scholarship program for students studying welding, machining and diesel technology at two-year colleges across Montana, including Missoula College. There are few scholarships available in these fields, making them all the more significant for students.

“With this scholarship, it is more manageable for me to purchase higher-quality equipment for the welding program,” said Jamie Peck, a first-year student from Bozeman. “With better equipment, I can produce the welds needed for class much easier, faster and safer.”

This fall, 25 Missoula College students each received a $1,000 scholarship, with the statewide total of Gianforte Manufacturing Scholarship recipients surpassing 300 since the program’s inception.

“Technical, skilled manufacturing is another field that provides great jobs and opportunities at Montana manufacturers,” Gianforte said. “We are thrilled to help Montanans receive the education they need to enter into this field and build bright, solid futures for their families.”

The Gianforte Family Foundation works to support organizations that equip others with the means to improve their lives and create lasting change. Since its creation, the foundation has given over $43.5 million to projects primarily in Montana, as well as projects in the greater United States and economically developing nations.

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