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The Magazine of The University of Montana

Raising Montana

A New Approach Motivates Students to Lead and Succeed

By Beth Hammock


A group of students from the UM Department of Anthropology [above] joined faculty members Garry Kerr [below] and Kelly Dixon on a trip to Tanzania.

What’s it take to get an eighteen-year-old excited about a freshman sociology class at The University of Montana?

Professor Daisy Rooks knows. You ask them to focus on big challenges in today’s society. Last fall, the assistant professor of sociology got a chance to try this approach when she led a freshman seminar called “Hunger and Homelessness in a Land of Plenty.”

“I connected with students in a class of twenty-two instead of teaching in a big lecture hall,” Rooks says. “We went on field trips to local service providers and had guest speakers from a variety of community organizations visit the class. Some students were motivated enough to travel to Los Angeles over winter break for a service-learning trip organized by UM’s Office for Civic Engagement.”

Rooks is co-chair of a committee focused on delivering a new program at UM called the Global Leadership Initiative. Two-hundred freshmen will participate as Global Leadership Fellows this year. These students will engage in seminars like the one Rooks taught last fall. They’ll also learn from out-of-classroom experiences crafted to prepare them to lead on the global stage.

“We will begin by strengthening students’ critical thinking skills through interdisciplinary study,” says Arlene Walker-Andrews, associate provost for undergraduate affairs, and Global Leadership Initiative co-chair. “Our goal is to inform students about opportunities to make a difference in the world, motivate them, and prepare them to lead.”

The Global Leadership Initiative is one outcome of a new strategic plan UM adopted shortly after President Royce Engstrom took office last fall. The plan’s goals include partnering for student success and offering an educational experience that provides students at all levels with the foundation to make a positive impact on the world.

As Global Leadership Fellows, students will connect with alumni who are leaders in their fields at campus events and weekend retreats. These connections will inspire fellows throughout their years at UM and on into their lives. Fellows in their junior year will study abroad or participate in internships. As seniors, fellows will work with other students, alumni, and friends to complete capstone projects that create solutions to pressing global issues.

“A supportive community of faculty, alumni, and friends of the University will foster quality, relevant research and scholarship,” Engstrom says. “We will rely on close partnerships to make the Global Leadership Initiative successful.”

Alumni and friends will be asked to speak at seminars and retreats. You also can get involved by making a donation to help cover the costs of delivering this innovative program. A fund to help students pay for their travel will be created. Donations also will help pay for leadership retreats and provide a pool for students to cover expenses related to their capstone projects. The University also plans to pay for a passport for each fellow who studies abroad.

Contact Ric Thomas at The University of Montana Foundation at 406-243-2593 or 800-443-2593 to learn more, or designate your annual gift to the Global Leadership Initiative Fund at