Outreach & Engagement Council


Welcome to Celebrating Engagement!

The mission of the MSU Outreach and Engagement Council is to strategically champion engagement at MSU through outreach, leadership, and service to fulfill the land-grant mission. The Council highlights university-community partnerships that embody the spirit of engagement: a mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity. This two-way interaction is a core value of our land-grant institution, and we honor our employees, students and partners who embrace this ideal. Learn more at montana.edu/outreachengagementcouncil

Do you have a suggestion for a Celebrating Engagement partnership we should highlight? Please send your ideas to outreach@montana.edu.

March 2014

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President's Award for Excellence in Service Learning honors top faculty

This prestigious award recognizes a faculty member and his/her community partner for engaging students in the best practices of service learning, a teaching method that utilizes student involvement in service to the community to meet instructional objectives of a course. Students apply information from a class in authentic settings while addressing the real needs of the community that have been identified by the community. In this issue of Celebrating Engagement, we honor the past decade's winners.

2013 Diana Cooksey, Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, and her community partners: Jon Henderson, City of Bozeman GIS Department and Nate Bashkirew with the City of Bozeman Fire Department.

2012 Carolyn Wenger, College of Nursing, and her community partner Perry Roberts, Executive Director of the Montana Rescue Mission.

2011 Thomas E. McNab, School of Architecture, and his community partner Will Patterson, Trails Coordinator for the City of Lewistown, Montana.

2010 Ada Giusti, Modern Languages & Literature, and her community partners Michael Kevane, the West African Director for Friends of African Village Libraries, and Hawa Coulibaly, Head of the Women's Association of Sanambélé, Mali.

2009 Florence Dunkel, Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology, and her community partners, the villagers of Sanambele, Mali.

2007 Bridget Kevane, Modern Languages Department, and her community partners Letra Hispánica in Salamanca, Spain and Longfellow, Morning Star, Irving and Hawthorne Elementary Schools in Bozeman.

2006 Ferdinand Johns, Architecture Department, and his community partner, the Chippewa Cree Reservation community.

2005 Anne Christensen, College of Business, and her community partners: Human Resource Development Council District IX (HRDC), Student Advocates for Financial Education (SAFE), Montana Department of Revenue, and the Internal Revenue Service.

2004 Marvin Lansverk, Department of English, who pioneered the service learning effort by leading workshops across Montana to support faculty efforts to develop strong and sustainable, service learning pedagogy.

February 2014

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Empowered Engagement for First Year Writing Students

What happens when an MSU writing student is partnered with an elderly Bozeman citizen for eight weeks in an interview project? All sorts of astonishing things! Jill Davis, an adjunct instructor in the Department of English, introduced the "Tuesdays with Morrie Project" interview project to her WRIT 101 students. The students had just completed reading Mitch Albom's book Tuesdays with Morrie about Albom's time spent with 78-year-old Morrie Schwartz, a retired Brandeis University sociology professor who was dying from Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS).

Students were partnered with an elderly Bozeman citizen for eight weeks. Students used the writing skills they learned in class to make a difference in someone's life: they spent time listening to another's story and gifting the partner's family with an essay. What began four years ago as an oral history interview endeavor has progressed into meaningful intergenerational conversations packed with lively discussion.

"These interview projects provide a 'win-win' experience for both partners," said Davis. "Students raise the bar on their writing by writing for a "real world" audience while participating in meaningful civic engagement experiences." Davis added that students not only evaluate their writing practices and improvement but reflect on their growth as stewards and participants of a larger discursive community. "These interview projects ultimately help students gain the ability to suspend judgment, demonstrate compassion, and enter into an empathic relationship with "other," she added.

Because reminiscence is common at the end of life, the participating seniors find it helpful to reflect on their lives with an attentive, thoughtful listener, said Davis. Students find it beneficial to slow down and share the fabric of their busy lives with an elder who cares and offers sage counsel. The descriptive narratives produced by students are seen as valuable documents for the interviewee's family. Davis said that recently, a segment of a student essay was read at his senior partner's memorial service. "It is heartwarming to witness the bonds that form from these partnerships and the challenges both face concerning preconceived biases," she said.

Davis said qualitative analysis confirms the project's intergenerational focus shifts biases and misleading perceptions held by both sets of participants, thus effectively transforming both partners in the true sense of engagement.

January 2014

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Wibaux County Extension partnerships strengthen community

Big things are happening in Wibaux County, and many of the area's economic development successes have roots in partnerships forged between the MSU Extension Office and community organizations.

One of biggest success stories for this far-eastern Montana county is creation of the Wibaux Endowment Foundation. This project allows residents to contribute to a fund that disperses grants for community improvement projects. The funds have supported everything from youth sports teams to ambulance services to a school reunion. Wibaux County's MSU Extension agent, Dave Bertelsen, serves on the foundation's board and works with community members to organize meetings, set fund-raising goals and liaise with the Montana Community Fund. The strong partnership between university employees and community leaders and residents has helped Wibaux plan for its future and maximize the use of local resources to solve local problems.

Another decades-long success story is the Wibaux Health Fair, an annual event that serves 600 people (the entire county has just 1,000!) with low-cost medical tests and information about preventative health. Participants say the health fair has saved them thousands of dollars in healthcare costs, and may have even saved the lives of those who were referred to primary care physicians after tests at the event revealed dangerous medical conditions.

The health fair is a collaboration between MSU Extension, the Wibaux County Health Department and other organizations.