BOZEMAN — A Montana State University council has awarded grants to four projects that promote outreach and engagement between the university and the community through community service, pilot projects, research and education.
The MSU Outreach and Engagement Council has awarded funding of up to $5,000 to projects that embrace the spirit of engagement and integration and will help advance MSU’s land-grant mission. Projects that received funds this year will address food security, housing for the homeless, community resilience in rural areas and education for farm and ranch women.
This is the third round of funding the council has awarded since beginning its seed grant program in fall 2015. The program is designed to bring MSU faculty, staff and students together with local and regional partners to address the needs of Montana’s communities.
The 2017 seed grant awardees and their projects are:
Bounty of the Bridgers
Bounty of the Bridgers – also known as BoB – is a planned food pantry on the MSU campus. The project was proposed by Mary Stein, leader of the sustainable foods and agriculture program in the College of Education, Health and Human Development and College of Agriculture. 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 U.S. Department of Agriculture as “not having access to a sufficient supply of nutritious and safe food.”
Using student volunteers from multiple disciplines, the food pantry project will strive to educate the campus community about the level of food insecurity at MSU while working toward a “popup” campus food pantry that offers shelf-stable food in a non-permanent location. During this first phase, students will analyze who will use 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 students in obtaining safe and healthy food could ultimately affect college retention rates.
Prairie Communities in Action
Prairie Communities in Action – a project that was submitted by Julia Haggerty, assistant professor in Earth sciences – will engage a collaborative group of MSU students, faculty and Montana citizens in conducting a community resilience assessment in central Montana. The assessment is designed to help enhance the quality of life and strengthen rural economies in six Montana counties surrounding the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.
Haggerty wrote that 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.
As part of the project, 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. The 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, Haggerty said.
Small Shelters for the Homeless
Proposed by Ralph Johnson, professor in the MSU School of Architecture, Small Shelters for the Homeless 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. This summer, students from an architecture course focused on design for the community will construct the model shelter, through which they can test energy consumption, material appropriateness, assembly systems and human comfort factors.
Since last fall, the students and instructors have been collaborating 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
Montana Annie’s Project 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 was proposed by Jennifer Anderson, MSU Extension agent for Rosebud-Treasure counties, has been successfully implemented in 33 U.S. states. It seeks to support the large and diverse population of farm and ranch women, ranging from women 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, MSU 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 and production), a long-term goal of Montana Annie’s Project is to develop a social network of education, skilled and empowered women throughout the state.
For more information about the seed grant program and other work of the MSU Outreach and Engagement Council, visit http://www.montana.edu/outreachengagementcouncil.
Contact: Kim Obbink, chair, MSU Outreach and Engagement Council, (406) 994-6550 or firstname.lastname@example.org