Montana State University Outreach and Engagement Seed Grant Awardees!


Starting in Fall of 2015, the Montana State University Outreach and Engagement Council launched Montana State's first-ever seed-grant program to promote outreach and engagement activities involving faculty, students and staff in collaboration with local and regional partners.

The council invited proposals for grants that would address the needs of citizens in Montana and beyond and that would encourage external and multidisciplinary partnerships. When the proposal deadline arrived, council members were delighted to see numerous applications and ideas--far more than had been anticipated. Further, project ideas represented dozens of disciplines and community partners across the state.

Third Round Awardees:

Bounty of the Bridgers (BoB), a food pantry on the MSU campus, wasproposed by Mary Stein, leader of the Sustainable Foods and Agriculture program in the College of Education, Health and Human Development. Stein wrote that MSU students in a sustainable food and bioenergy capstone class researched food insecurity on campus and found that 30 percent of respondents reported some degree of food insecurity, defined by the US Department of Agriculture as “not having access to a sufficient supply of nutritious and safe food.”

Using student volunteers from multiple disciplines, the BoB food pantry project will strive to educate the campus community about the level of food insecurity at MSU while working towards a “popup” campus food pantry that offers shelf stable food in a non-permanent location. During this first phase, students will analyze who uses the food pantry, which will inform the choice of a permanent location. In phase two, the group seeks to establish a permanent food pantry on campus with hours that complement those of the Gallatin Valley Food Bank, a key partner on the project.

The project will also seek support from an AmeriCorps VISTA member.

Stein wrote that research shows a correlation between food security and academic success, and that assisting MSU student in obtaining safe and healthy food could ultimately affect college retention rates.


Prairie Communities in Action, submitted by Julia Haggerty, assistant professor of Earth Sciences, engages a collaboration of MSU students, faculty and Montana citizens in conducting a community resilience assessment in Petroleum County. The assessment will help enhance the quality of life and strengthen rural economies in six Montana counties surrounding the C.M. Russell Wildlife Refuge.

Haggerty wrote that despite the national and international significance of the wildlife refuge, the priorities of wildlife conservation groups are sometimes at odds with those of agricultural producers in the region. In partnership with the CMR Community Working Group, a citizens’ coalition, MSU students will develop a research project that assesses community resilience: the network capacities and assets that allow place-based communities to respond to disruptive events in ways that minimize losses to livelihoods and natural resources while maximizing opportunities for transformative change.

Students from multiple disciplines will interview stakeholders, analyze data and disseminate research findings over the course of a semester-long class and week-long summer field experience. Their ultimate goal is to share information with the rural communities that will help guide long-term decision-making that affects healthcare, education, conservation, land management and other important areas.


Small Shelters for the Homeless, proposed by Ralph Johnson, a professor in the School of Architecture, will support construction of a small shelter on the MSU campus that will help students test its viability for a larger-scale project that provides transitional housing to chronically homeless residents of Bozeman. In Summer 2017, students from the Architecture 451 Design for the Community course will construct the model shelter, through which they can test energy consumption, material appropriateness, assembly systems and human comfort factors.

The students and instructors have collaborated since Fall 2016 with the City of Bozeman, Human Resources Development Council and other organizations regarding the potential of “tiny homes” to meet the needs of the chronically homeless. They have also interviewed representatives of local churches, homeless individuals, city staff and local contractors to determine the feasibility of developing a small shelter housing unit and village.

According to Johnson, “no other academic institution is engaged in both the construction and evaluation of not only small shelters for the homeless but in parallel tiny homes. The project has strong local, regional and national interest.”


Montana Annie’s Project, proposed by Jennifer Anderson, Extension agent for Rosebud-Treasure Counties, is an educational program designed to strengthen women’s roles in modern agricultural enterprises by fostering problem solving, record keeping and decision-making skills. The project, which has been successfully implemented in 33 U.S. states, seeks to support the large and diverse population of farm/ranch women – ranging from those who have come into the profession intentionally and with extensive experience to those who have found themselves immersed in running an agricultural operation by default through marriage, death, inheritance or other life circumstances.

In Montana, Extension agents who have been trained to lead and implement the project will form stakeholder steering committees in 18 counties that will help tailor Annie’s Project to their area’s local needs.

In addition to offering education on five risk areas (financial, human resource, legal, market, production), a long-term outcome of Annie’s Project is to develop a social network of education, skilled and empowered women throughout Montana.


Second Round Awardees:

The World Language Culture and Exposure Program proposed by Hua Li, associate professor of Chinese and interim director of Asian Studies in the College of Letters and Science, will provide an opportunity for MSU students to teach Mandarin Chinese to students in grades K-5 at Bozeman’s Irving, Hyalite and Whittier elementary schools and expose them to Chinese language and culture.

The program is a partnership between MSU’s Department of Modern Languages and Literature, the Greater Gallatin United Way, Friends of World Language and World Language Enrichment and the three Bozeman elementary schools.

Through the program, elementary school students will gain exposure to Chinese language, culture, art and cooking, regardless of their ability to pay for extracurricular classes, while MSU students will gain in-classroom experience and build strong relationships with community partners.

Organizers also will study whether the program could be a replicable model that could be expanded beyond Bozeman and into other Montana communities.

Li called the seed grant “indispensable to the project,” along with the educators who will participate in the program.

“The coordinators and teachers in the three elementary schools' world language programs -- Elizabeth Williamson, Christina Clark and Karen Filipovich -- play a key role in carrying out the project,” Li said.

Boardroom Bobcats, submitted by Laura Demmel, project manager in the MSU Leadership Institute, is a partnership between the MSU Leadership Institute and several local nonprofit organizations. The aim of the project is to place upper-level undergraduate and graduate MSU students as non-voting members of regional nonprofit boards.

“Boardroom Bobcats offers regional nonprofit boards the chance to utilize the diverse perspectives and skills of MSU students and at the same time gives students an opportunity to experience boardroom service firsthand. It’s a win-win for both parties,” Demmel said.

Seed grant funds will support student recruiting, match-making opportunities with nonprofits, and professional development training on mentoring, governance, marketing, networking and other topics.

The Creating Community Partnerships to Preserve Fort Ellis: A 19th Century Military Outpost, proposed by Crystal Alegria, coordinator of MSU’s Project Archaeology, is a partnership between MSU’s Project Archaeology and the Gallatin History Museum to educate the public about historic Fort Ellis.

Fort Ellis, located east of Bozeman, was a U.S. Army fort founded in 1867. The site is now part of the Bozeman Agricultural Research and Teaching (BART) Farm.

For this project, faculty, staff and students of MSU’s award-winning Montana Site Stewardship Program and the Bureau of Land Management’s Project Archaeology program will work with the museum to host a site stewardship training and recruit local volunteers to analyze surface artifacts unearthed after spring plowing.

The group also will create educational signage for the Fort Ellis site and share information with the public.

“Through this project, the citizens of Gallatin Valley will better understand the importance of preserving and protecting archaeological and historical sites and the significance of these places to our shared history and identity,” Alegria said. “Bozeman residents will have the opportunity to engage in their collective history and play a part in protecting a historic place that is of national significance.”

The Fort Peck Buffalo Connections Project: Storypole Prototypes and Implementation, proposed by Michael Everts, associate professor in the School of Architecture in the College of Arts and Architecture, will provide freestanding story poles that will be marked with colors and story elements to honor the buffalo.

The project is a collaboration between MSU’s School of Architecture and MSU’s Department of Health and Human Development in the College of Education, Health and Human Development, in conjunction with Fort Peck Community College and a Fort Peck community group.

Since the reintroduction of ancestral buffalo to Fort Peck Reservation lands in 2012 and 2014, faculty and staff of MSU have been engaged with Fort Peck community partners to exchange and apply knowledge and resources to improve the physical, mental and spiritual health of the Fort Peck indigenous people and communities.

The seed grant will help project organizers develop and install the story poles. MSU architecture students will work with community stakeholders to choose prototype materials, paints, carving and other methods for recording symbolic stories.


First Round Awardees:

Christine Stanton, assistant professor in the Department of Education, and Lucia Ricciardelli, associate professor in the School of Film and Photography. Stanton and Ricciardelli are collaborating with Blackfeet Community College on "Piikani Digital Storywork," a project that collects digital stories from the Blackfeet tribal community. Through the project, students and faculty at BCC and at Blackfeet Academy high school will learn filmmaking techniques from MSU students and faculty, who, in turn, are engaged in culturally responsive, community-centered filmmaking and education.

Christa Merzdorf, associate professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience. Merzdorf is collaborating with Montana's Aaniih Nakoda College in Harlem and Chief Dull Knife College in Lame Deer to bring tribal college and MSU students together as student-teachers for an intensive research practices course for undergraduates. The one-week research course was taught by MSU faculty last summer; the expansion will allow tribal college and MSU students who are actively participating in research to share their skills with fellow students and learn about each others' cultures.

Kalli Decker, assistant professor in the Department of Education. Decker will collaborate with Montana's Department of Health and Human Services to study the effectiveness of support services for families of children with disabilities. Currently, state programs offer support services to families, enforcing the importance of early intervention for children with disabilities. However, resources are not available to provide in-depth feedback from the families regarding how well the services are working. MSU students will be trained to conduct interviews with families in rural communities in order to provide critical data to early childhood professionals.

Angela Weikert, education and public programs director at the Museum of the Rockies. Weikert will partner with the Carter County Museum and a Carter County High School mathematics teacher to develop a collaborative education program called the "Mobile MAIA Science Lab." Students in rural communities will measure the bones of cattle, chicken and the dinosaur Maiaisaura in order to better understand the mathematical and biological concepts of growth curves while connecting with Montana's agricultural economy and rich fossil history.