Connecting the college to Montana

New projects aim to spur connection between MSU and communities

butte mai wah society, chinese immigrants in montana, msu, montana living

Montana State University’s Outreach and Engagement Council has awarded seed grants to four projects that promote outreach and engagement between the university and the community.

This is the ninth round of funding by the council since it established the seed grant program in 2015. The program is designed to bring MSU faculty, staff and students together with local and regional partners to address the needs of communities in Montana and beyond.

The council awarded grants of up to $5,000 to projects that embrace the spirit of reciprocity and complement MSU’s land-grant mission. The council has awarded approximately $212,000 since the program started.

The 2023-24 academic year seed grants and their projects are listed below.

Remembering Early Chinese Immigrants in Montana: A Study of Artifacts in Butte's Mai Wah Museum 

 Primary project coordinator: Hua Li, professor, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, College of Letters and Science

Primary external partners: Pat Munday and Mark Johnson, board members, Mai Wah SocietyOther partners: Aubrey Jaap, director, Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives; Crystal Alegria, director, Extreme History Project

This student-led research project partners with Butte’s Mai Wah Museum, Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives and The Extreme History Project in Bozeman. Its goal is to give MSU students and the local Chinese-speaking community an opportunity to interact with the artifacts exhibited in the Mai Wah Museum in Butte by using Chinese language skills to translate Chinese business signs, names of teas and medicines, and historical documents into English.

The Mai Wah Society collects and conserves artifacts, preserves historic buildings and sites, presents public exhibits, and supports research and publication of scholarly and general interest materials.

Visitors can connect with Chinese history in Montana and learn how early Chinese immigrants influenced Montana culture, particularly from 1860 to 1960. The project also hopes to recognize and appreciate the value of the Asian community in Montana, both past and present.

Academia Familia Latina

Primary project coordinator: Bridget Kevane, professor, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, College of Letters and Science and director, Liberal Studies Program

Primary external partners: Tina Visscher, director, Bienvenidos a Gallatin Valley

Other partners: Sarah Maki, associate dean, and Anna Reardon, outreach project manager, Gallatin College MSUThe Academia Familia Latina is a five-week program that is part of the Humanities, Arts and Social Services-funded Latino Pathways Initiative.

This program seeks to educate parents about higher education opportunities in partnership with Bienvenidos a Gallatin Valley, a nonprofit that welcomes and empowers Spanish-speaking newcomer families in the valley.

Through this project, Gallatin College MSU will build upon its outreach to the Latino community and provide information about vocational and certificate opportunities for both parents and their students. The AFL certificate program will provide Latino families with practical knowledge and skills, such as navigating admissions, financial aid and the knowledge needed to guide their children through post-secondary education.

Community Engagement through Recreational Water Quality Assessment of Pathogenic Amoeba

Primary project coordinator: Brent Peyton, professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering

Primary external partner: John Doyle, director, Crow Water Quality Project, Crow Environmental Health Steering Committee

Other partners: Margaret Eggers, assistant research professor, and Sandra Halonen, associate professor, Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology, College of Agriculture; Jonathan Shikany, doctoral student, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Norm Asbjornson College of EngineeringWaterborne pathogens pose an increasing public health risk to recreational water users due to the impacts of climate change.

Pathogenic amoebae prefer the warmer water sources that develop during the summer months. Naegleria fowleri is a free-living amoeba, also known as the “brain-eating” amoeba, that causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis upon infection.The Little Big Horn River plays a vital role in recreation, ceremonial traditions and agriculture on the Crow Reservation. Pathogenic free-living amoebae may become increasingly prevalent in the Little Big Horn River — and other waters — as water temperatures increase.

This project will educate the community about potential health risks from pathogenic amoebae and provide students at Crow Little Big Horn College and the Guardians of the Living Water Program participants (Crow middle school through college students) with hands-on experience.

Social Optics: Helping Neurodiverse Students Successfully Transition from High School to University

Primary project coordinator: Nadezhda (Nadya) Modyanova, research scientist, Pennington Educational Research Lab, College of Education, Health and Human DevelopmentPrimary external partner: Carolyn Long, co-founder and chief strategy officer, Social OpticsOther partners: Hannah Haygood, teacher, and Jessie Lee, speech-language pathologist, Bozeman Public Schools; Mike McNeil, director, MSU Disability Services; Amy Lincoln, director, Office of Student Success

This project focuses on neurodiverse people — that is, those showing behavior or thinking that is different from the neurotypical majority of humans — especially those with autism spectrum disorders, or ASD, which affects 3% of children. ASD often dramatically impairs social behavior and communicative abilities, leading to challenges in social, economic, academic and overall well-being.Neurodiverse students are an underrepresented group at MSU, according to the project leaders, who say knowing more about a student’s social and communicative strengths and challenges allows faculty and staff to better support them.

Social Optics is a computer-based instructional program to teach social and communication skills to children and young adults. The program also generates a holistic profile of students' social and communicative strengths and challenges. Researchers note that the Bozeman School District has piloted Social Optics with promising results.

This project will support a workshop in November for MSU and Bozeman School District partners on how to enhance and support the transition between high school and college for neurodiverse students and increase their retention once in college.More information about the seed grant program and the MSU Outreach and Engagement Council is available online at

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