Gift from Gianforte Family Foundation to help UM grow computer science program

Greg Gianforte

Missoula Current

The University of Montana announced a sizable donation from the Gianforte Family Foundation on Thursday, saying the gift will help grow the school’s computer science program and turn out more students skilled for jobs in technical fields.

The $290,000 pledge – the foundation’s second to UM – will also help the Department of Computer Science underwrite two new lecturers, launch a new computer science course, and ultimately grow its enrollment.

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

According to the College Board, not a single Montana student took the Advanced Placement exam for computer science in the last two years. Just 105 students graduated from a Montana college or university with a computer science degree in 2014.

Gianforte, along with others, say the figures have left a number of high-tech jobs unfilled because there aren’t enough graduates trained in the field. It’s a challenging trend, as more careers now require workers skilled in computing.

“Computing is increasingly important across many academic disciplines and careers,” Gianforte said. “Technical, skilled manufacturing is another field that provides great jobs and opportunities at Montana manufacturers.”

Gianforte, who ran as the Montana Republican Party’s candidate for Governor, made high-tech education one of the central themes of his campaign.

His foundation’s latest pledge will underwrite two new lecturers and allow the program to expand its computing classes. The department looks to double the number of computer science majors and minors during the next five years.

Ware said the department will also work with local businesses to develop student internships.