Saturday, Mar. 22nd, 2014

Four Montana teens to attend 4-H Climate and Environmental Change Teen Summit

Four Montana teens will attend the 2014 4-H Climate and Environmental Change Teen Summit at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., on March 27 to learn how to establish their own Youth Climate Science Program in Montana.
The four Montana 4-H teens are: Rachel Fessenden, Bozeman; Shelbi Fitzpatrick, Cut Bank; Jenny Greger, Bozeman; and Alexandria Schafer, Denton. The youth will be accompanied by Sue Geske, Gallatin County 4-H veterinary science project leader and bio-science team coach. The team will connect with tribal communities with help from Lisa Lone Fight, a researcher at the MSU Spatial Sciences Center and member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara (Sahnish) Nation. 
The Montana program is organized by Broadwater County Extension in collaboration with the Montana State University Extension Community Development Program, the City of Bozeman and the MSU Weatherization Center.
After attending summit, the four will form a science team to teach climate science learning activities during 4-H Congress, which will be held July 8-11 in Bozeman. Montana 4-H Congress delegates will be invited to attend the team's hands-on workshops and field trips at a city waste water facility tour, a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building inspection, a greenhouse gas inventory of municipal fleet and buildings, and an energy audit of a local business or ranch. The team will also work to establish a 2015 Youth Climate Summit with the intention of maintaining an annual summit.
“As a direct descendant of the Blackfeet Tribe, I see climate change affecting my home,” Fitzpatrick said.
“The 566 Tribal Nations in the United States must also be part of climate change discussions and solutions.” 
“People need to be educated about global climate change so our nation can face this problem together,” Schafer said. “It is our duty to inform our nation and our world, beginning with youth and hopefully branching out to inform all citizens. My personal goal for a future Montana Climate and Environmental Change Summit is to reach as many people as we can.” 
Youth participant Jenny Greger, who is the winner of the 2014 350-mile Montana Race to the Sky dogsled race applied the summit to her sport.
“While I am relatively new to dogsledding, I am already seeing the effects of climate change on snow conditions in the state,” Greger said. "I’m glad that girls have opportunities to learn and to lead on this issue.”
Funding for the summit was received through the National Science Foundation National Girls Collaborative Project, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) grant and through the MSU Campus Sustainability Advisory Council( with additional support from the Gallatin County 4-H Unlimited Leaders Council and Gallatin County 4-H Foundation.

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MSU named a 'Tree Campus USA' for the second year in a row

For the second year in a row, Montana State University has been designated a Tree Campus USA in honor of its commitment to effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals.
MSU achieved the designation by meeting Tree Campus USA’s five standards, which include maintaining a tree advisory committee, maintaining a tree care plan, dedicating annual expenditures toward trees, observing Arbor Day and committing to a student service learning project.
“We are honored to be recognized for a second consecutive year for our ongoing stewardship of our tree resources,” said E.J. Hook, MSU environmental services manager.  “Being designated once again as a Tree Campus USA validates our efforts, process and continuing commitment to responsible management of our trees, both now and into the future.”
The designation is from the Arbor Day Foundation, an organization dedicated to inspiring people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees. The Arbor Day Foundation created the Tree Campus USA program in 2008.
More information about the Tree Campus USA program is available at

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Gallatin Valley YMCA Summer Learning

This summer, the Gallatin Valley YMCA will offer a learning loss prevention program for children entering first and second grade who are most at risk of falling behind in their reading skills over the summer. The Summer Learning Loss Prevention pilot program, a national initiative with the Y, will strive to help children read at grade level by the third grade – a key educational milestone that is important to children’s ongoing knowledge retention and academic performance.
Studies show that without access to summer learning activities such as camp, travel, and visits to libraries and museums, children from low-income environments can experience more significant learning loss than their more economically stable peers. Over time, these children continue to lose ground and by the fifth grade, many are two to three school years behind their middle- and high-income peers.
“During summer months, many youth are not as engaged in learning and reading activities as they would be while in school,” said Christel Chvilicek, Child Care Director, Gallatin Valley YMCA. “The Y’s Summer Learning Loss Prevention program will help ensure children stay on track over the summer and read at or above grade level when the new school year begins.”
The new pilot program will be held four days a week for six weeks this summer for 32 children entering into first and second grade. Mornings will be dedicated to literacy work, while afternoons are filled with enrichment activities that include field trips, art, music, science, and physical activity. In addition, there will be parent workshops designed to encourage reading at home. The Y will work with the Bozeman School District to identify students that would benefit from the summer learning loss prevention program. With $30,000 being awarded to the Gallatin Valley YMCA through YUSA, this program will be held at a very low cost to families.  
"Research strongly suggests that for many children, increasing learning opportunities during the summer leads to stronger academic achievement during the school year.  We're excited to be part of this collaboration." Said Dr. Rob Watson, 
-Bozeman Public Schools
Nationally, the Y worked with nearly 1,000 children who participated in the Summer Learning Loss Prevention pilot program last summer. Initial results show strong gains in reading skills: on average, children gained 2.4 months of reading skills in six short weeks. In addition:
• Nearly all parents/caregivers (98 percent) reported that their child was “more excited to learn” and showed “increased self-confidence.”
• 99.7 percent families believed the program would help their child do better in school;
• 98 percent reported that the program helped their family read more books; and
• 97 percent said it helped them get more engaged in their child’s education.
The Y is committed to nurturing the potential of every child and teen and is addressing the academic achievement gap through pilot programs on afterschool, early learning readiness and summer learning loss prevention. The programs, which are underway in nearly 40 states across the country, are designed to not only increase success in school, but to also foster social-emotional development and physical health and well-being. As part of the national initiative, the Gallatin Valley YMCA is one of 15 Y’s selected to pilot the Summer Learning Loss Prevention program for 2014.
For additional questions on Gallatin Valley YMCA’s programming for children 3-14 years of age, please check out

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KGLT Fund Drive 2014

KGLT, Southwest Montana’s alternative public radio station, celebrates 46 years of great music by kicking off their annual fund drive on Sunday, March 23rd.

KGLT 91.9 and 97.1 fm in Bozeman is non-commercial and largely listener-supported, making their annual fund drive a major source of operating revenue. And every year, KGLT’s staff of over 80 volunteer DJs take to the airwaves for two weeks to create one of the most entertaining live on-air fund drives you’ll ever hear.

They’ll be offering a wide assortment of gifts donated by local businesses and organizations to entice their listeners to support this rare breed of radio stations.

A collectable KGLT t-shirt and sticker comes with a minimum $50 pledge, and the deal gets sweeter as your pledge increases with music packages, gift certificates, other t-shirt options, hand-made coffee mugs by Mountain Arts Pottery, canvas tote bags and embroidered fleece vests.

Other incentive gifts this year will include certificates for food from your favorite restaurants and coffee shops, services from local businesses - like yoga classes,  jewelry, massages and bike tune-ups with large-ticket bid items like ski passes from Big Sky Resort and Bridger Bowl and a bicycle from Summit Bike & Ski.

In this age of corporate consolidation of the airwaves, KGLT remains wild and unfettered, offering a broad swath of music from its’ rotating roster of live, volunteer DJs every day from 6am to after midnight. Music offerings vary from the ever-popular Saturday morning bluegrass show with DJs Cathy Ebelke and Jim Albrecht, the zany banter of Keith and Randy on Wednesday afternoon’s ‘Coffee Show’ to Classic Country on ‘Cow Jazz’ with Deb Robiscoe Thursday mornings 9am to noon. Occasionally, you may even hear the crackle of vinyl from KGLT’s extensive 46 -year-old record library.

KGLT has a very entertaining two-week fund drive where DJs and community join forces to support commercial-free radio – and if last year’s record-breaking support is any indication, the listeners think that’s a pretty good deal!

KGLT broadcasts from the MSU campus at 91.9 and 97.1fm in Bozeman, 89.5fm in Livingston, 98.1fm in Helena and in Gardiner/Mammoth at 107.1fm.  Log on to for live streaming and a complete show schedule.  During the fund drive, you can phone in your pledge at (406) 994-4492, or 800-254-5458.

For more information, or to offer incentive gifts to KGLT’s fund drive, contact Ron @ (406) 994-7091.

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Big Sky Snowsports Hiring Clinic

Big Sky Resort has created one of the finest Snowsports Schools in America and is encouraging those who are passionate about the sport to join the team for the 2014-15 season. Big Sky Snowsports will be conducting a hiring clinic April 12-13, 2014 to introduce the program and the mountain to those interested in sharing the sport with others by becoming instructors.

Big Sky Resort will be conducting try outs for both skiing and snowboarding for adult and children’s instructors. Participants must be at least a level seven being able to ski or snowboard blue runs comfortably.

Big Sky Mountain Sports diverse staff of instructors, all certified by Professional Ski Instructors of America, and alpine guides bring a wealth of knowledge and skill with a focus on the enjoyment of skiing or snowboarding. All committed Big Sky Snowsport instructors are offered extensive training and certification opportunities.
Big Sky Snowsports School can be flexible to fit the unique needs of local Montanans, including full time students, by signing up to work weekends, holidays and spring break. Part time instructors qualify for full complimentary Biggest Skiing in America season pass for the 2014-15 season. Other benefits include pay for lessons, discounted food and discounts in retail.

Participants interested in attending the Big Sky Mountain Snow Sport’s School hiring clinic on Saturday and Sunday, April 12-13, 2014 should contact Both days are from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., ready to go on the snow by 9 a.m. Complimentary lift tickets will be provided to all participants.

Big Sky Resort is the Biggest Skiing in America with 5,750 acres, 4,350 vertical drop, 28 chair and surface lifts, and the home of the Lone Peak Tram arriving at 11,166 feet in elevation. Big Sky has over 2,400 acres of beginner/intermediate terrain and over 3.300 acres of advance/expert terrain. Big Sky has plenty of opportunities to grow skill sets and advance careers.

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Friday, Mar. 7th, 2014

Montana Girls STEM Collaborative opens new mini-grant cycle April 1

The Montana Girls STEM Collaborative Project (MGSCP), a statewide initiative to encourage girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, has partnered with the Women's Foundation of Montana to offer a mini-grants program.

Applications will be accepted from April 1 through May 1.

Mini grants are designed to build collaboration between existing programs and organizations in order to encourage girls to pursue STEM-related educational programs and careers. Organizations may apply for funding up to $2,000 and must have at least one partner. Preference is given to applications that are innovative and involve collaboration between two programs or organizations that have not previously collaborated together.

Learn more about the mini-grant program at Montana's online applications will open April 1.

For more information, contact Suzi Taylor at Montana State University:

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The Bozeman Energy Smackdown

The City of Bozeman’s Office of Sustainability has challenged residents to shave 10% off their energy usage. This significant savings will add more money to their pocketbook and taking a stand against climate change. The Bozeman Energy Smackdown was developed as a friendly community competition aimed at educating and inspiring residents to reduce their energy consumption. The Challenge evaluates energy use based upon utility bill history from Northwestern Energy, and the two biggest savers over a twelve-­‐ month period will be rewarded with a $1,000 gift card to the home improvement store of their choice.

The contest officially closes on April 16, 2014, so there is still time to enter and see how your energy usage stacks up. The City of Bozeman and their community partners encourage ALL Bozeman residents to become more cognizant of energy usage, especially during recent periods of extreme cold. The contest website ( offers suggestions on weatherization methods for your home, as well as simple daily reminders such as kicking your thermometer down a notch or two and donning a sweater, or air drying your clothes.

“We are excited to see Bozeman residents becoming engaged in saving energy. With buildings generating half of global greenhouse gases, saving energy at home has a significant impact on battling climate change. The community of Bozeman has a vested interest in keeping our winters deep and our whitewater roaring,” stated Natalie Meyer, who works at the City of Bozeman as the Sustainability Program Manager.

Saving energy has a significant impact on a residential family’s pocketbook, too. If every family in Bozeman shaved 10% off of their energy bill each month, the entire community would see an annual savings of $2.6 million dollars.

In addition to the two $1000 grand prizes, generously donated by NorthWestern Energy, the City of Bozeman will also be giving away two $100 gift cards to Lowe’s. Watch for those opportunities on the City’s social media outlets on Facebook ( and Twitter ( as well as nuggets on how to reduce energy consumption in your home or business.

For more information please visit:

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Monday, Mar. 3rd, 2014

MSU film graduate Tom Berninger talked to MSU students

A documentary about one of America's hottest indie groups that is going "National" has a Montana State University connection.
"Mistaken for Strangers," a documentary that will open nationwide next month, is written, directed and co-produced by Tom Berninger, who graduated from Montana State University in 2002 with a degree in film. Berninger recently screened his film in Bozeman and spent a day talking to MSU film students.
"I thought about going to a big film school, but one of my brother's friends who was in film told me to go to a school where I'd have a great college experience …. Get in trouble... Make a lot of friends … all which I did," Berninger said as he spoke to film students last week.
In addition to making friends at MSU, the likable Berninger has also made a memorable film, which was selected as the opening night film for the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival last year and has since then played to great reviews at festivals around the world. Reviewers describe the film as "truly hilarious and touching."
At first blush, the film is about Berninger and his ill-fated turn as a roadie for the indie-rock band The National, a gig he got because his older brother, Matt Berninger, happens to be the group's lead singer. Tom's job doesn't go so well, and from there the film evolves from a humorous look at the inner workings of a rock band into a touching story about complex family relationships and how they form us, and one man's discovery of his strengths and courage.
"It's a love story," one audience member said about the film's examination of the relationship between the two Berninger brothers.
Berninger screened the film at the Bozeman Film Festival in connection with his appearance at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, which meant it was only a short trip to screen the film in Bozeman, visit his old professors and answer questions from film students at his alma mater.
"This is everyone's dream … to come back to their school and talk about their movie," Berninger said. He told students that he followed a cousin to MSU and never regretted his choice.
"This college and this film school let me make movies …. I made a film my freshman year," he said. "That doesn't happen other places."
Cindy Stillwell, MSU film professor who taught Berninger when he was at MSU and introduced him at the Bozeman festival, said her former student has “made a fantastic film that makes us all beam with pride.” The film will have its national opening March 25 at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium followed by an appearance by The National.
Berninger is the first to admit that may be surprising for a student who came to MSU because he wanted to make horror films. "More like Herzog's 'Aguirre: Wrath of God' and 'Quest for Fire' than pure horror. Maybe horror action," he said.
Berninger said that after graduation he went to New York, met with a great deal of disappointment and heartbreak and returned to his native Cincinnati to live with his parents. He talked his brother into allowing him to film The National on an international tour with the goal of posting a video blog on the band's website. 
From the beginning of the film, it is obvious that things may not go well for Tom. Even though the brothers' faces bear a resemblance, the similarity seems to end there. Matt is tall, spare, aloof, hipster cool. Tom prefers heavy metal and video games. He's accessible, irreverent, relaxed and always in trouble. The audience learns that this is a longstanding pattern in the Berninger family, where Matt was the "quarterback and hero" and Tom was the class clown.  Yet, as the film unspools along with Tom's career, the audience sees Tom make some important personal realizations that enable him to make the film only he could make. The last image in the film is of the two brothers memorably linked together.
Berninger said he still lives with his famous brother and his family, although they recently relocated from Brooklyn to LA.  "We went out to look at LA and we just stayed, basically," he said.
Berninger told the Bozeman audience that "Mistaken for Strangers" has opened up doors to him, and he is working on another unnamed project. He said he hopes his story may serve as inspiration to those who struggle finding their voice even after "years of heartbreak."
"I wanted to tell the kids that it doesn't matter when you figure it out," said Berninger, who is now 34, of the decade of self-doubt that plagued him. "You just need to figure it out."
His advice to MSU students was to stay in college and take advantage of every opportunity offered them as they discover their own strengths.
"I loved this school, and the five years I was in Montana" Berninger said.
He added that many scenes of Berninger at work with The National while on tour were filmed by MSU film school friends. He said some of his best memories of MSU involve those friends.  "I was kind of a punk. But I was also part of a community. Once you graduate it's really hard. When you are in college, you really are free to create.
"The years here helped create who I eventually came to be," he told the screening audience "… Although. it did take me 12 years to figure that out."
To learn more about Berninger's film, see
To learn more about MSU's School of Film and Photography, see

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Largest private gift in the history of the state

Norm Asbjornson, a Montana State University alumnus and Montana native from the small town of Winifred, has committed to give the university $50 million for its College of Engineering - the largest private gift in the history of the state.

Asbjornson's gift was announced Monday morning at a press conference in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Building on the campus of MSU in Bozeman to an audience of students, faculty, staff, alumni, community members, business leaders and government officials.

"I am excited to see the amazing growth of MSU and the College of Engineering. I hope my gift challenges and inspires others who are in a position to advance the university that has given us so much. MSU needs our support now and this is the time to give back," said Asbjornson, a 1960 MSU mechanical engineering graduate. Asbjornson was also awarded an honorary doctorate in engineering from MSU and the Montana Board of Regents in 2004.

Asbjornson, 78, is the founder and president of AAON, a NASDAQ-traded heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) manufacturer based Tulsa, Okla., with annual revenues in excess of $300 million and more than 1,400 employees.

"Norm has inspired us and humbled us with not only his generosity, but with the depth of his character and his sense of responsibility for future generations," said MSU President Waded Cruzado. "This gift will transform the lives of generations of students, it will transform this campus, and it will transform the state of Montana in profound ways."

Asbjornson's gift will fund the construction of an innovative laboratory and classroom facility that will enable the collaborative, hands-on learning and leadership that embody the university's legacy and mission.  The building, to be named the Norm Asbjornson Innovation Center, is envisioned to promote dynamic interdisciplinary engagement, meaningful student-faculty interaction, and accelerated innovation that responds to and anticipates emerging trends in education, industry and society. Open to all, and anchored in the university's growing engineering programs, the building funded by Asbjornson's gift will bring to life an enduring, state-of-the-art asset that erects bridges between academic programs, serves today's outstanding students and faculty, and supports how learning and leadership will occur long into the future. University officials hope to break ground no later than the spring of 2016 and use the building to anchor development of the university's south campus.

In a previous MSU interview, Asbjornson described his feelings about gratitude and stewardship:

"I think it's an absolute must for everyone to give back to what made them successful. I had a lot of help from MSU and Winifred," Asbjornson said. "I can't repay those who helped me, for they're gone. But I can give to the next generation. I think everyone should balance the books and thank those people and institutions who helped them and also give to the next generation.

"It's a responsibility we all have."

Currently housed in Roberts Hall, Cobleigh Hall and portions of the Engineering and Physical Science Building (EPS), the College of Engineering has been the fastest growing college at MSU for the past two academic years and reached a historic, all-time high enrollment of 3,102 students in the fall of 2013 - up 12 percent from fall 2012. During this time, the college added six new tenure-track faculty lines to support the growth of students and increased its budget for graduate teaching assistants, who provide important teaching support.

From the fall of 2003 to the fall of 2013, the College of Engineering grew from 2,090 students to its current 3,102 students - 48.4 percent growth. The college has had no significant addition of teaching or laboratory space since the completion of the EPS Building in 1997.

"The College of Engineering has been growing rapidly and Norm's gift couldn't come at a better time to help us take our teaching, research and engagement to the next level," said Brett Gunnink, dean of the College of Engineering.

"As a successful engineer and businessman, Norm has seen first-hand how today's greatest challenges benefit from hands-on collaboration across academic disciplines," Gunnink said. "The building supported by this gift will be a game changer for our growing student body, for engineering education and for research and economic development in Montana."

MSU's College of Engineering offers 10 degrees and is home to some of the university's most successful research groups, centers and institutes in terms of student involvement, discovery and economic development.

Asbjornson has made previous gifts to the college and the university. In 2003, he endowed a $1 million scholarship fund for graduates from Montana high schools with 100 or fewer students. He also has created an endowed scholarship specifically for graduates of Winifred High School who attend MSU, and he created an endowment for the Burns Technology Center to develop innovative distance learning programs for rural Montana schools. In 2006, he gave more than $600,000 in cash, equipment and technical advice to create a one-of-a-kind HVAC laboratory in MSU's College of Engineering. His company, AAON, gives research grants to the College of Engineering on a continuing basis and has hired a number of MSU engineering graduates.

Asbjornson has also given of his time and ideas as a member and former chairman of the MSU Alumni Foundation board, through which his gift will be made, and as a long-time member of the College of Engineering advisory council. He has been a major philanthropist for his home town of Winifred as well.

He started his entrepreneurial career at the age of 10 when his uncle offered him a Model T in return for watering hundreds of chickens. For a summer, he hauled hundreds of gallons of water to the chickens from a well using two small pails. On payday, he learned the Model T had been covered in a flood and the engine was too rusted to start.

Undeterred, he worked on the car in his father's garage until it ran. Then he became his own boss and went into business hauling garbage for 25 cents a barrel. It felt like a lot of money to Asbjornson, who grew up during the Great Depression, his family starting in an 800-square-foot house with no indoor plumbing, running water, electricity or telephone. Asbjornson's parents added to the family home in the same way he added to his entrepreneurial skills.

After earning his degree in mechanical engineering, Asbjornson spent 28 years working in the HVAC business until he founded AAON in 1988. The company manufactures commercial air conditioning equipment weighing from 200 pounds to 20,000 pounds. Its equipment can be found cooling and heating businesses around Bozeman, throughout Montana and the nation.

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