Jun 25, 2024  
2017-2018 Catalog 
2017-2018 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

General Information about Montana Western

Nature of the Institution

The University of Montana Western, an innovative four-year public institution, is located in Dillon and Beaverhead County in southwestern Montana. Montana Western is a comprehensive University with programs emphasizing active, hands-on experiential learning. To better facilitate this type of learning, Montana Western transitioned to Experience One block scheduling in fall 2005. Under this system, students typically take a single course at a time, three hours per day, usually four courses per semester. Each course lasts for 18 instructional days over three and one-half weeks.

Excellence in undergraduate instruction is Montana Western’s primary goal, enhanced by close student-faculty relationships, fine teaching facilities, and an exceptional academic environment. Public service and research by faculty, staff , and students contribute to the broader mission of the institution. Montana Western has programs in the arts and sciences, teacher education, early childhood education, business, equine studies, and natural horsemanship.

Constituencies Served

The primary reason for Montana Western’s existence is to serve the educational needs of Montana citizens, businesses, and other organizations. Montana Western serves people of all ages-from infants to senior citizens-through programs offered on its campus by the university or by other affiliated organizations. Students enrolled in UMW courses and programs are both traditional-aged recent high school graduates and nontraditional-aged students. Increasing numbers of out-of-state students add to campus diversity and greatly contribute to making Montana Western a more interesting place to obtain a university degree while participating in abundant extracurricular activities.

Institutional Philosophy

Montana Western believes learning is best accomplished by having students engaged in authentic learning activities within each academic discipline. With the skilled and knowledgeable guidance of its professors, UMW’s academic programs feature many opportunities for field experiences, labs, projects, and internships.

By fostering a hunger for knowledge, appreciation for differences in people and ideas, and pride in creative and technical achievements, UMW provides a foundation for lifelong personal growth and productivity. Montana Western’s philosophy fosters well-rounded graduates who are sensitive yet skeptical, skillful in special areas yet reflective about general themes, and aware of their complex world and committed to its improvement. Graduates are prepared to be good citizens as they contribute positively to social structure and the economic vitality of the communities in which they reside.


The University of Montana Western is accredited by: The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

The University of Montana Western is an institutional member of: The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE).

The University of Montana Western teacher education programs are accredited by: The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

The University of Montana Western has received specialized accreditation for its Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Applied Science degree programs in business through: The International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE).

History of Montana Western

In 1889, the Act of Congress under which the State of Montana was admitted to the Union set aside acres of the public domain for the establishment and support of normal schools. As a result of this Act, Dillon was selected as the sight for the State Normal School in 1893. The Legislature of 1897 created an Executive Board, which selected a president and faculty. The first session of the school opened September 7, 1897.

In 1903, the Legislature changed the name of the institution to State Normal College. On April 6, 1931, the State Board of Education approved the four-year course and authorized conferring the degree of Bachelor of Education. On December 8, 1947, the State Board of Education changed the name of the degree to Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. Effective July 1, 1949, the Legislative Assembly changed the institution’s name to Western Montana College of Education.

In April 1954, the State Board of Education authorized the granting of a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education and the degree of Master of Science in Education. The 1965 Montana Legislature changed the name of the institution to Western Montana College effective July 1, 1965.

At the January 1987 meeting of the Board of Regents of the Montana University System, the Board took action to administratively merge Western Montana College with The University of Montana. Montana Western became a four-year affiliated campus of The University of Montana in July 1988, and the name of the campus became Western Montana College of The University of Montana. A Bachelor of Arts degree with multiple option areas was authorized by the Board of Regents in 1991 with five thematic areas: Environmental Sciences, Literature & Writing, Pre-professional Health Sciences, Social Science, and Visual Arts.

In January 2001, the Board of Regents authorized a name change to the University of Montana Western, with approval granted by the 2001 Montana Legislature effective July 1, 2001. With this change, UMW gained university status in recognition of the breadth and strength of its academic programming.

Montana Western began Experience One scheduling for all first-time baccalaureate-seeking freshmen in fall 2004, with the full transition to Experience One occurring in fall 2005.


With a population of 5,500, Dillon is situated in the beautiful Beaverhead Valley. The town is the center of ranching, mining, and recreational activities. Winters are historically mild and summers are pleasant with cool nights. The valley is noted for its typically crystal clear air and blue skies with abundant snow in the surrounding mountains but relatively little snow or rain in the valley.

Dillon provides a safe, small-town environment for Montana Western. Community concerts, theater, and other programs serve cultural needs of the community. Also available are churches of various denominations, public library, YMCA, two golf courses, parks, hospital, and social and fraternal organizations. Many nearby recreational areas provide opportunities for nature study, picnics, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, and skiing.

The area is rich in historical interest. The Big Hole Battlefield, Bannack (first territorial capital), and Virginia City (second territorial capitol) are within easy driving distance. The Lewis and Clark Expedition’s travels through the Beaverhead Valley in 1805 are commemorated at Clark’s Lookout State Park, located one mile north of Dillon. One of the sources of the Missouri River is found in a tiny stream emerging from a spring in the area’s hillside. A museum, developed by the Beaverhead Museum Association, houses many relics from the region’s early days.

Located in the southeastern residential section of Dillon, the beautiful campus consists of well-developed lawns, shade trees, walks, and historical and picturesque buildings. A visitor to the Montana Western campus enjoys an unsurpassed panoramic view of southwest Montana, with several beautiful mountain ranges punctuating the surrounding landscape and a wide variety of recreational activities for the outdoor enthusiast located within a short distance.

The campus is convenient in terms of physical space, layout of facilities, and proximity to community resources, providing easy access to friendly student-centered faculty, personnel, and services. Montana Western is committed to fostering a sustainable environment and is heated by biomass. Recent renovations including energy efficiency projects and a restoration of historic Main Hall contribute to UMW’s emerging role as an innovative regional interdisciplinary arts and sciences university while maintaining its tradition of excellence in teacher education, business, two-year associate degree, and certificate programs.