Wednesday, Jan. 15th, 2020

Montana Science Center announces reopening in new location

On Monday, January 20th, Montana Science Center, will open doors to the public at the new, refurbished location: 2744 W. Main St. After temporarily closing the doors at 202 S. Willson on December 1, 2019, the staff at MSC is excited to announce that the new location is ready for families and community members to visit. Located across from the Gallatin Valley Mall, the new location is nearly double in size of their old location and will feature new exhibits, a new Science Station, expanded STEAMlab and larger meeting space for programs and events.

“It has been an incredible project to be a part of,” says Board President, Mandy Dredge, “Watching this location take shape with upgrades, additions and design enhancements is exciting. We are looking forward to inviting the community to become engaged in hands-on, creative experiences in STEAM topics in this new location.” Thanks to supporters all around the community, the former Children’s Museum of Bozeman is opening doors to a location that embodies their mission of ​providing hands-on learning experiences in science and technology that inspire creativity, innovation, and lead to real-world application.

In addition to new programs, the high-tech makerspace, STEAMlab will offer expanded opportunities due to its increased size. “Families from all over the Gallatin Valley gather at the Science Center to spend time together learning something new, build something, or experience science during a hands-on activity,” says Executive Director, Abby Turner. “We invite anyone that wants to engage with science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM), to join us. Our new location will expand on our mission and we are excited to be able to facilitate more exciting opportunities for students and families that visit.” Well known programming like Preschool Science, Open Lab in the STEAMlab and Free Friday Nights will resume as well in January.

With all of the new changes, Montana Science Center hopes to work with community members to engage in collaboration of what else could be added to enhance informal STEAM education in the future. ​​As a local, non-profit providing unique, hands-on experiences for families with kids of all ages, the Montana Science Center relies on supporters to lower barriers to access to science and technology discovery through hands-on exhibits and experiences. All questions and comments can be directed to the science center.

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Fourth Annual Winter’s Bounty Farm to Table Feast

Winter’s Bounty Farm to Table Feast is a fundraising event in support of Gallatin Valley Farm to School. Proceeds support our efforts to: provide meaningful food, nutrition, and agriculture education in schools; integrate healthy, local food into school meal programs; and promote a vibrant local food economy through community partnerships. Gallatin Valley Farm to School is a Bozeman based nonprofit organization started in 2007.

Event Details
Date: February 28, 2020 Location: Firelight Farm in Bozeman
Attendees: Local food supporters, business owners and professionals, parents of school age children, school administrators and teachers, farmers, ranchers, and foodservice and healthcare professionals

Donation Opportunities
During Winter’s Bounty, we host both silent and live auctions. These include experiences and items from businesses and individuals across the Gallatin Valley. Donations to Winter’s Bounty show your support of healthy children and families as well as a stronger, more vibrant community in the Gallatin Valley. Gallatin Valley Farm to School will promote your support leading up to and during the event.

Deadline: February 14, 2020
Contact: Kate Emmerich, Associate Director, 406-830-5731, kate@gvfarmtoschool.org
Thank you for supporting healthy kids, vibrant farms, and strong communities.

Gallatin Valley Farm to School is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization - Tax ID #: 45-3528080 Sponsorships and donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

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MSU mathematician receives prestigious NSF CAREER Award

A Montana State University mathematics professor who is nationally recognized for his work to solve a problem that may advance an area of quantum physics has just received a highly coveted National Science Foundation CAREER grant, the first such award received by a member of the MSU Department of Mathematical Sciences.

David Ayala works in a mathematical field called topology, specifically higher category theory that has important applications in quantum physics. The bulk of his $400,000 NSF CAREER award, given over five years, will fund two mathematical physics conferences around Bozeman, as well as support graduate students in the MSU Department of Mathematical Sciences in the College of Letters and Science, he said.

Ayala explains that higher category theory is a system of techniques for identifying patterns, or structure, held by certain arrays of information. Ayala's work applies these techniques to data that are the observables of certain quantum systems, with the goal of addressing the long-time, long-distance behavior of the system.

Ayala, 37, just began a semester-long appointment as one of three leaders of a program that hosts 200 mathematicians from around the world during a four-month program at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, California. The fall semester Ayala will travel to several other locations to work on his ongoing project before returning to MSU in January 2021.


When Ayala returns, the NSF grant will enable him to integrate research and education between students and researchers in Montana and surrounding states. He also will plan conferences that will bring renowned researchers in mathematical physics to the state.

While his field of mathematics may sound esoteric, his colleagues use more concrete words to describe his interactions.

“David is fiercely committed to people’s enjoyment of mathematics, whether it is himself, his undergraduate students or his graduate students. And he is fearless about trying new things,” said Elizabeth Burroughs, head of the MSU Department of Mathematical Sciences. “That’s what makes him a great teacher, but it also makes him a great mathematician, taking his research field in new directions.”

Although Ayala’s work is solitary and his field is complex, he often likes to work communally in local coffee shops, where he jots down complicated equations in large, unlined art notebooks. He also frequently spends several hours each day video chatting with his collaborators, who are located around the world.

A prominent researcher in his field, mathematician Haynes Miller at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that Ayala and his collaborator, John Francis, have led the exploration of a field of mathematics called factorization homology, which connects high-dimensional geometry with higher-category theory. Miller said the impact of Ayala and Francis’s work is only just beginning to be felt.
 
While Ayala’s work is garnering him recognition from colleagues in mathematics and quantum physics around the world, people in Bozeman are likely to recognize his name for his accomplishments as a trail runner. He has twice won the Bridger Ridge Run, including last August’s race. His arduous 93-mile run through Death Valley in 2013 was featured in Trail Runner magazine.

Ayala said that he runs not to think and solve equations. Rather, trail running allows himself to turn off his active brain.

“I run so I can’t think of anything else,” he said.
 
In fact, the landscape and community surrounding Bozeman was an important factor in his coming to MSU. The son of medical providers who worked in Zion National Park, Ayala grew up in Rockville, in southern Utah. He attended a two-room schoolhouse in which the first three grades were in one room and the other grades in another room. There were five students in his grade.

“It was precious,” said Ayala of his upbringing. He said he remembers being embraced by his entire community, since there weren’t many children. He was bussed to high school in Hurricane, Utah.
 
Ayala recalls spending a lot of time alone, running and hiking and skiing. He taught himself to juggle and then later started reading books on math and physics for fun. He attended the University of Utah. “I didn’t even think of going any place else.”

And then his education and passion for math jumped into high gear. He earned a bachelor’s degree in math in just two years. In the next two years, he earned another bachelor’s degree in physics as well as a master’s degree in math. His doctorate in mathematics is from Stanford. He was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley’s Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, the University of Southern California, Harvard University and the University of Copenhagen.

“I really, really wanted to return to the Intermountain West after that,” said Ayala, who has been at MSU since 2014.

Ayala said that in addition to allowing him to pursue his research, his position at MSU provides him the satisfaction of working with intriguing undergraduate students, several graduate students and collaborators.
 
“I enjoy sharing an idea and seeing in a student’s eyes the moment they understand it,” he said.
 
Burroughs said the fact that Ayala already has worked at such a high level of scholarship for many years and produced a steady output of strong and innovative mathematics is just part of the Ayala equation.
 
“He finds joy in what he does. And he hopes other people find joy in it, too,” Burroughs said. “He has chosen to be here at MSU in the mountains doing the work he loves. And we at MSU are so fortunate.”
 

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Monday, Jan. 13th, 2020

FWP seeking applicants to Region 3 Citizens Advisory Committee

Region 3 of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking applicants to fill vacancies in its Citizens Advisory Committee. 

The committee meets several times per year and operates in an advisory capacity to help FWP be responsive and effective resource managers within the constraints of the law. Citizen advisors help identify emerging trends and resolve conflicts, and they act as FWP ambassadors to various interest groups and geographic communities. 

FWP employees benefit from having a deeper understanding of public priorities and expectations with help from citizen advisors, who can function as a trusted sounding board for ideas and initiatives. People who volunteer in this capacity benefit from understanding FWP programs, priorities, administrative processes and limitations in a broader context. 

FWP is seeking applicants representing a variety of interests from communities across southwest Montana within Region 3. For more information or to apply, contact FWP at 406-577-7891 or send an email to Morgan.Jacobsen@mt.gov. The application deadline is 5 p.m. on Jan. 31.

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Friday, Jan. 3rd, 2020

MSU librarian recognized with national public service honor

In the course of a semester, Montana State University research services librarian Mary Anne Hansen will work on myriad projects, including providing library instruction for dozens of courses, conducting individual and small-group research consultations, assisting students and faculty on literature reviews and more. She leads MSU’s Tribal College Librarians Institute, assists other library staff with on-call chat and email research assistance and works on special projects, such as the library’s popular Paws to De-Stress program, where therapy dogs visit the library before and during finals week each semester to interact with students.

“I love being a research librarian because I love helping people and teaching them how to become better researchers in their disciplines, as well as understand the information infrastructure, from Google Scholar to meta-search tools to databases specific to their discipline,” Hansen said. “I love being challenged, and, most of all, I love the relationships I form with faculty and students.”

Hansen, herself, is loved, too. She was recently named one of only 10 winners nationwide of this year’s I Love My Librarian Award from the American Library Association. The prestigious honor recognizes librarians for leadership in the profession and for their commitment to transforming lives. The ALA selects the winners from public nominations that showcase the lasting contributions of dynamic librarians working in public, school, college, community college and university libraries. This year, library users nationwide submitted nearly 2,000 nominations.

“It’s difficult to put into words how honored I am at receiving this award,” Hansen said. “I’m so grateful to all of the wonderful mentors and champions who have guided me along the way in my 20-plus years as a librarian.”

Hansen, who in addition to her work at MSU’s Library serves as president of the Montana Library Association, has a long association with MSU and its library.

Hansen is a Bozeman native, and both of her parents attended MSU. Her dad, a decorated World War II veteran, graduated in 1948, and her mother took courses at MSU to become a school librarian after earning a degree from the University of Montana.

Hansen also attended MSU and worked in the library during her undergraduate years. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in modern languages in 1985 and then earned a master’s in adult and higher education in 1993. In addition to herself and her parents, more than 20 others in Hansen’s extended family have attended or graduated from MSU, she said.

Hansen began working as a staff member at MSU in 1987 and then, after earning a master’s degree in library science through an online program of the University of Arizona, became a faculty member in the MSU Library in 1996.

She calls the library an “incredible” place to work.

“I love working at MSU because it’s such a vibrant university with so many dedicated faculty and staff. Additionally, there is widespread understanding across campus that a well-supported and healthy library is essential infrastructure for MSU’s educational and research enterprise,” Hansen said. She added that the library provides a range of research and technology services to meet the needs of the MSU community, and it also works with partners across the state to advance research skills and education.

“I have a lot of great colleagues who are very service-oriented and student-centered,” Hansen said. “Whether in tech services or public services roles, everyone in the library deeply understands that we’re helping MSU accomplish its education mission.”

Hansen said that the highlight of her career has been her 22-year involvement with the Tribal College Librarians Institute, which provides free professional development opportunities for librarians serving indigenous college students.

Often, the tribal college library is the only library on a reservation, and it also fills the role of a public library, Hansen said. To ensure tribal college librarians can receive the training, Hansen has procured more than $800,000 in grants to help reduce travel expenses for librarians attending the institute. Over the 29-year history of the institute, more than 400 librarians and presenters have benefited from it; many attendees return multiple times and represent 25 states, four Canadian provinces and come from as far as New Zealand.

“I’ve formed deep and rewarding relationships with many of the tribal college librarians, and I’ve learned so much from them,” Hansen said.

In addition, Hansen is a leader in the library community, not only through her work with the Montana Library Association but also through her involvement with the American Indian Library Association, which has included working with the ALA to create an advocacy toolkit for rural, native and tribal libraries. And, she said it has been rewarding to serve as a Montana liaison to the regional medical library in Seattle, a relationship that has earned her health education outreach funding to train constituents across Montana, such as students at tribal colleges, K-12 science, technology, engineering and math educators, Montana librarians and others.

Kenning Arlitsch, dean of the MSU Library, said Hansen’s recognition is well-deserved.

“Mary Anne’s impact on the lives of students, colleagues, and public citizens is real and demonstrable,” Arlitsch said. “Whether she’s teaching students to critically consider information sources that shape their education, facilitating the professional development of her colleagues through (the Tribal College Librarians Institute) or delivering health information to the citizens of Montana, Mary Anne shows commitment and dedication in everything she does.”

Since the inception of the I Love My Librarian Award in 2008, the ALA has selected up to 10 librarians annually from a pool of hundreds of nominations. This year’s winners will each receive $5,000, a plaque and a travel stipend to attend the I Love My Librarian Award ceremony in Philadelphia on Jan. 25. The award is sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the New York Public Library and The New York Times.  

Over the last decade, library supporters have shared more than 19,000 nominations for the award. Information regarding previous award winners can be found at ilovelibraries.org/lovemylibrarian.

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MSU team quantifies the importance of storytelling in crisis communication

A Montana State University team has discovered that telling a story about a potential hazard engages the audience significantly more than delivering straight facts.

MSU political science professor Elizabeth Shanahan led the interdisciplinary team of seven MSU professors and two graduate students who investigated how a narrative-based risk communication might better prepare the public to avoid a natural disaster. Their paper, “Characters matter: How narratives shape affective responses to risk communication,” was recently published by the journal PLOS One in its special issue on science and story.

Montana State University faculty Elizabeth Shanahan, left, associate professor of political science and Ann Marie Reinhold, assistant research professor in land resources and environmental sciences, along with other MSU faculty collaborators, have co-authored a paper that will be published in PLOS One academic journal about the power of narrative in risk communications. MSU Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez

Based on work funded by a National Science Foundation grant and with data garnered from flood-prone parts of Montana, the article demonstrates that the public pays more attention and internalizes risk best if the information is presented as a story, particularly if the public can visualize becoming a hero in that story by being prepared.

“We knew that narrative in general was important in risk communication, but this study adds precision by using innovative measures for how audiences respond to specific narrative mechanisms,” Shanahan said. “As our title reveals, characters matter in how audiences respond to risk messages, and narrative constructs are really important in communicating science.”

The investigation represents the initial results of more than two years of work from an MSU Institute on Ecosystem’s team composed of Shanahan; Ann Marie Reinhold, land resources and environmental sciences in the College of Agriculture; Eric D. Raile, political science; Geoffrey Poole, land resources and environmental sciences; Richard Ready, agricultural economics and economics; Clemente Izurieta, computer science in the Gianforte School of Computing in the Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering; and Jamie McEvoy, Earth sciences. MSU graduate students Nicolas Bergmann, Earth sciences, and Henry King, computer science, also contributed to the paper.

Shanahan said the strength of the MSU team was the members’ diverse viewpoints and distinct disciplinary approaches.

“Interdisciplinary research takes time and patience. For example, we even had to arrive at a similar language surrounding what a hypothesis is and how to analyze and visualize data,” Shanahan said. “We bring very different ways of knowing to science that have, in the end, produced a fantastic article that advances the study of hazards and risk preparation. None of us could have done this work as individual scientists.”

Working with emergency managers in 2017, researchers interviewed about 45 people in flood-prone areas along the Yellowstone River. From those interviews, the researchers developed a list of commonly used words associated with narrative characters and then built multiple risk-preparation messages.

In group sessions, respondents were given eight messages regarding flood risk. Two contained straight scientific facts; those were least favorably received. The remaining six involved using different character types, such as hero or victim, along with scientific information . The messages that elicited the greatest response were those where the participants could visualize becoming a hero in the face of a hazard. The biggest change in audience response occurred when messages called upon the listener to transform from a victim to a hero, she said.

“Conventional risk communication efforts are often ineffective at inducing people’s preparedness,” the group writes in the article. “One possible explanation is that scientists and the public do not share a common language to describe risk.”

Shanahan notes that audiences did not respond when characters were first portrayed in the message, but they became very engaged when characters actually did something. The team called this phenomenon the “Hobbit hypothesis.” That means the first chapter introducing the characters is not very exciting. However, when the characters become active, the audience also becomes engaged in the story.

Shanahan said the results of the study have important implications for all organizations seeking to deliver information about how to prepare for hazards such as floods, earthquakes and wildfires.

“Of great importance to agencies in the area of risk communication is that a message within a story narrative will move people,” she said. “To prepare people for a disaster, this is when you need story.”

Nic Rae, dean of the MSU College of Letters and Science and a political scientist, said Shanahan and the team are international leaders in demonstrating the importance of narratives in formulating public policy choices.

“Their results also have relevance for the debate of communicating science, one of the critical issues of our time,” he said.

Shanahan has been working for about 15 years developing what is known as the narrative policy framework, which quantifies how people tell and are influenced by stories. Her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College was in comparative literature, so the idea of story theory came naturally. She said she began her work measuring political narratives while a doctoral student at Idaho State University. She now specializes in policy process and political communication.

That work has led to serving as the principal investigator and co-principal investigator of two NSF-funded projects about the importance of narrative in scientific communications. Her work often takes her to Australia, where she works with Raina Plowright, MSU professor of microbiology, on how to communicate information about Hendra virus, a zoonotic disease that can also be fatal to humans. She also works internationally on conflict communications involving humans and wildlife.

She said the next steps in the project are to test how narrative-based risk communication influences risk perceptions and decisions and to spread the information to emergency managers throughout Montana.

“We hope that with this work we can better align perceived risk with actual risk,” Shanahan said. “The point of the study is: If you know what you want people to do, the way to get them to prepare is to put the important science in a story form.”

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Friday, Dec. 27th, 2019

The Entrepreneurs Checklist: How to Start Your Own Business in Bozeman

You may not realize it but Bozeman has been dubbed as the most livable place by the Montana Office of Tourism. The rock climbing, skiing, mountainous views make it a dreamland for nature enthusiasts! But even if you’re not too keen on things involving nature, Bozeman still has something for the city slickers as well. From symphonies and art galleries to farmers’ markets and street festivals, Bozeman has brought so many people to this thriving city for numerous reasons.

Because Bozeman practically has something for everyone, it’s no wonder why it’s been dubbed as the most livable city! There’s just one more reason as to why it’s earned that title that the Montana Office of Tourism failed to mention… What lots of people don’t realize is that Montana is actually a prime location for aspiring entrepreneurs to start their businesses.

To be fair, the fact that Bozeman is an entrepreneur’s dream isn’t necessarily a Montana “attraction” that brings people to the city for the Montana Office of Tourism to report. BUT... with it being an “attraction” to aspiring entrepreneurs, Montana’s Office of Tourism should make it an exception in tourism!

Just kidding, but if you’re currently living in Bozeman or are thinking of relocating to Bozeman and are wanting to start your own business here, there are a few things you need to do. Follow this checklist on how to get your business up and running in the most livable place called Bozeman.

Create a Detailed Business Plan
In short, your business plan is going to be the blueprint for the future of your business. You might have it in your head that you’re going to do this and that but it means nothing unless you have laid everything out in full detail.

To create a detailed business plan, you’re going to outline how you plan on achieving success for the next three to five years. It needs to explain your business goals and how you plan to achieve them. It also needs to list the risks your business could potentially face as well as how you plan on overcoming those risks (i.e. type of coverage your business needs).

One of the more important aspects of your business plan is going to be how you plan on funding your business. Lenders and financial institutions are going to want to see this portion of your business plan in great detail. You’ll also need this detailed business plan if it comes down to needing or wanting to sell your business too, according to Entrepreneur.

Determine the Best Legal Entity for Your Business
Whether you choose a sole proprietorship or an LLC, you are going to need to determine which one is best for the type of business you plan on starting. Each entity has its own set of pros and cons but again, based on the type of business you’re starting, you’re ultimately going to be the one to determine which one is a better fit.

Get Your Employer Identification Number (EIN)
An easy way to think of an EIN is by looking at it as a social security number but for businesses. Your EIN is the unique identifier that classifies your business as a legal business. In all honesty, the only reason you even need an EIN is solely for tax purposes. If you want to open a business in Bozeman, you’re definitely going to need to obtain this… Your EIN is going to be the very factor that’s going to allow you to hire employees and open a business bank account, etc.

Get Your Business Registered in the State of Montana For Tax ID and State Taxes
Each state has its own state tax ID So with you wanting to start a business in Bozeman, you’re going to need to get yours registered in Montana. Now, the requirements and obligations vary from state to state so you’re going to need to look up Montana’s requirements so you can go on and get the process rolling.

Obtain the Proper Licenses and Permits Needed For Your Business
Depending on the type of business you’re starting, there are certain licenses and permits that might be required of you by the state of Montana. For example, if your business will be selling alcohol in any way, you’re more than likely going to have to present your EIN and then apply for the licenses and permits you need… they won’t just hand them to you.

Open a Bank Account Specifically For Business Transactions
One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is keeping their personal and business transactions in the same account… this is the quickest way to lose your personal assets and to simply mess up the accounting for your business.

To prevent any confusion and loss of monies, keep a business account and your personal account. Also, to save yourself any confusion, you should just hire an accountant to help you in that area. There are plenty of experienced accountants in Bozeman that would be more than happy to assist you with your accounting needs.

Hire! Hire! Hire!
Yes, the products or services you’re selling are going to be an important part of growing your business but what business owners fail to realize is that the employees are the ones who keep the business afloat. From their knowledge of the products or service you’re selling to their overall attitude and customer service they provide, they’re the face of your business, ultimately.

The great news about hiring employees is that Montana’s minimum wage is increasing in 2020! That should help you get people in the door ready to work!

When you hire your first employee, you can consider that as a major milestone on the journey of your business. But before you start hiring people, make sure you have insurance that will cover them for any type of accidents (it’s illegal not to) and just make sure you’ve checked off everything on this list.

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Thursday, Dec. 19th, 2019

Kenyon Noble & Traeger Grills Gift to Local First Responders

Traeger Grills & Kenyon Noble are teaming up again, this time its about giving back.

Traeger & Kenyon Noble have partnered on many great events in the past years from BBQ classes to sponsoring the Montana Pitmaster Classic each year. On Wednesday, December 18th they will be working together again on something special & close-to-the-heart, they will be gifting new Traeger grills to local city first responder units. Day in & day out these brave women & men put their lives on the line to help protect us, help us & sometimes burning the candle at both ends trying to keep our
neighborhoods & businesses safe. Voluntarily sacrificing time away from their families is an everyday occurrence. With this gift we hope to bring a little joy, amazing food & a sense of appreciation.


Maybe its burgers & steak after a long shift, or a brisket on a summer weekend or just the smiles it will bring to their faces sitting around the table talking about great memories together. On behalf of all of us at Kenyon Noble, Traeger Grills and our families... Thank You and Merry Christmas!

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Tuesday, Dec. 17th, 2019

MSU and partners receive $2.3 million for five-year project to educate school counselors to fill jobs in rural Montana

Montana State University and its partners at the Montana Office of Public Instruction and the University of Montana have received a $2.3 million grant for a program that is designed to train high-quality school and mental health counselors to work in rural areas of Montana. The grant, from the U.S. Department of Education, will be used for a five-year project, "Rural Mental Health Preparation/Practice Pathway.” Montana was one of only three states to receive this grant.

“We have a real need to recruit, prepare and retain counselors to work in Montana’s rural schools,” said Anna Elliott, the grant’s principal investigator and an assistant counseling professor in the MSU Department of Health and Human Development in the College of Education, Health and Human Development. “This grant aims to help K-12 students in these rural schools, as well as to provide excellent training to help our graduates be successful in these settings.”

MSU’s partners on the grant include the University of Montana’s Department of Counseling and the Montana Office of Public Instruction. Additional state partners include the Montana Rural Education Association, the Montana Small Schools Alliance and the Montana School Counselor Association. Co-principal investigators on the grant are Jayne Downey, associate professor in the MSU Department of EducationRebecca Koltz, head of the MSU Department of Health and Human Development; and Kirsten Murray, professor in the Department of Counseling at UM.

“In Montana, we know that our students need additional access to mental health supports,” said Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen. “I am proud to partner with Montana’s universities to increase the talent pipeline of counselors to our rural schools and communities. Student mental health continues to be a top priority at the Office of Public Instruction under the agency’s Montana Hope initiative.”

Elliott said the majority of the grant funds will support graduate students in their preparation and their post-graduation placement, including their lodging, travel and living expenses during a 10-month internship they must complete before graduation.

“There’s a real value to having our students and graduates intentionally integrated in the community where they’re serving,” Downey said. “We want to help make it possible for these students to integrate into their communities so that they can make real connections.”

As part of the grant, MSU and UM will provide financial support for approximately 10 students each year who are enrolled in their university’s graduate counseling and counselor education programs. Over the lifetime of the grant, approximately 50 students will be supported who will provide counseling at high-needs rural schools over the course of the five-year grant. Additional support will be available for one year for program graduates who choose to continue to work after graduation in a rural setting.

“Building five cohorts of counselors-in-training prepared to address rural counseling needs specific to Montana is an amazing opportunity,” Murray said. “The students from the two institutions will participate in training and preparation together, building lasting professional networks across the state that will not only serve them now but in their future careers.”

MSU and UM are each adding a class to their respective counseling curriculum that is focused on special issues related to working in rural populations, and Elliott anticipates that parts of several other courses will be adapted to more prominently highlight issues in rural counseling.

Program participants will also have a number of opportunities to gain experience in rural settings, Downey noted. The degree program takes two years to complete; in their first semester, students participate in a short rural life orientation, and in the second semester they participate in a rural practicum. In their second year, students in the program will complete a 10-month internship in a rural community, with each student providing at least 600 hours of service.

Finally, Elliott said, to make MSU’s and UM’s programs more accessible to counseling students serving rural communities across the state, those programs are growing more agile in their delivery systems and schedules, aiming for students to be physically on campus just one day per week during their internship year.

Holly Mook, Coordinated School Health Unit director within the Health Enhancement and Safety Division at the OPI and the grant’s project director, said the grant will address a critical need in Montana’s rural schools.

“Many of our rural schools do not have access to school mental health supports, let alone community mental health supports, due to various things like geography or lack of trained professionals,” she said. The grant’s partnerships strengthen it, she added.

“The partnerships within the grant are critical in training and preparing graduate students in rural life and cultural responsiveness, as well as promoting graduate programs to existing school staff in rural areas in order to meet these needs,” Mook said.

The program is roughly modeled after another five-year grant project based in MSU’s College of Education, Health and Human Development that aims to address a shortage of teachers in rural schools across the state. Announced in October, that program is called “Addressing Rural Recruitment and Retention in Montana" and is supported by a $6.2 million grant. 

“We realized that this teacher preparation model had real potential to support the preparation, recruitment and retention of rural school counselors and mental health professionals,” Downey said. “So, we’ve adapted the teacher preparation model to fit for rural school counselor preparation.”

Elliott added that many parallel challenges exist between the two.

“As a state, Montana is large, remote and isolated. We’re aware of the fact that Montana has one of the highest suicide rates in the country every year,” she said. In small, rural schools, there are also often limited resources, she added. Limited resources often translate into limited support for mental health staff.

Koltz said the “gravity” of these needs would be too much to address without the unique collaboration between Montana's two flagship universities and the Office of Public Instruction.

“By working together, the MSU and UM counseling programs hope they will be able to increase the number of counseling professionals prepared and equipped to make a real difference in rural communities across Montana,” Koltz said.

Elliott added that “research that shows that preventative measures are what lead to better mental health in communities. If we can get mental health counselors into schools and help support kids and their wellness as they’re going through the school system, that could potentially have a larger systemic impact.”

Alison Harmon, dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Development, said that the college’s efforts to develop a network of both rural educators and mental health practitioners is a creative approach to improving services.

“The contribution MSU will make to this project is supported by a strong collaboration among faculty in both the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Development,” she said. “Having a grant-funded project that connects programs across this college is both unique and powerful – and certainly a first in my experience as dean.”

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Monday, Dec. 16th, 2019