My summer in California

My name is Trevor Finney and I visited California this summer with the goal of documenting the level of plastic pollution along the coast from Los Angeles to Eureka. My theme is natural resources and I felt this would be a good opportunity to see first-hand how efforts to cleanup the pacific coast are going, and look into micro-plastic pollution in the area as well. I collected water samples from different locations that were notorious for having high concentrations of micro-plastics (e.g. the bay area) and look forward to getting those spectrometry results back from the lab.

One of the main things I learned from this trip was that most plastic pollution is not large items that you can see. Most plastic bits that have been in the ocean for a long period of time have broken down into minuscule pieces that float in the upper levels of sea water. This is just as true in California as it is in the middle of the pacific where the great garbage patch is located. The majority of the pieces of plastic that we can see no longer resemble the original item they came from, rather they are multicolored, pebble sized pieces that cover beaches.

One piece of good news is that local organizations have largely cleaned up the most polluted areas of California. Areas like Clam Beach north of Eureka and East Beach in Santa Barbara (pictured below) look a lot better than they used to. However this is only the tip of the iceberg as we cannot see that most the plastic is too small and hundreds of miles out from the shore.

I also now feel that in this situation, people are to blame but not entirely responsible as individuals. We are responsible for the 13.3 quadrillion fibers [1] that are released into the ocean every year from choosing to wear polyester, but it is the large corporations too that are to blame with 20 of them producing over half of all the plastic pollution globally [2]. The mismanagement of waste and our unwillingness to refuse plastic is a complex issue, but it doesn’t get resolved if we don’t talk about it, if we are not aware of its implications.

Boating introduces pollutants, stresses out wildlife, and decreases water quality. I came on this trip to see the effect of humans through waste and plastics but it is hard not to see the diverse ways we are causing environmental detriment in our everyday lives. The natural landscape of California’s coast before people has been mostly lost to development.
My friend told me to keep an eye out for masks littering the landscape and it wasn’t hard to do so. They have also been the culprit in getting wrapped around the necks of wildlife.

Plastic pollution in California often comes from inland sources, carried by rivers and streams. The eastern half of the great garbage patch between California and Hawaii is composed of mostly plastics no longer than 1 centimeter. Similar particles can be found along California’s coast from all across the pacific. This piece comments how the interconnectedness of plastic pollution due to the ocean gyres transporting materials across international waters. The consequences of our environmental neglect and mismanagement of waste having lasting effects as plastics take hundreds of years to degrade and can cause immense detriment to the wildlife in our seas.


My Experience as a Remote Intern

My Name is Elizabeth LaRance and my global theme is human rights and inequality. My beyond the classroom experience was a remote internships through the intern abroad HQ company. The internship focused on human rights in Morocco. My experience gave me the opportunity to explore inequality issues in another country and to compare those issues to current issues in the United States.

My internship worked closely with a non-profit organization that was created in Morocco in 2016 named Cooplus. This organization started a project titled “Empowering Women Through Sustainable Cooperative Entrepreneurship in Morocco.” The project aims to increase women’s decision-making power in their businesses, improve the responsiveness of business development support services to gender equality issues, and engage communities in supporting women’s rights and breaking down gender stereotypes related to women’s entrepreneurship. Throughout my internship I worked alongside my coordinator who is also a main collaborator of the organization’s project. Through this I was able to receive a glance into the lives of women in Morocco and gain an unexpected appreciation for my country.

My experience provided me with a lot of knowledge on the current issues surrounding gender inequality in Morocco. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic I was not able to travel abroad and work more closely with the organization. I was, however, able to assist the organization in implementing digital alternatives in order to the keep the project of empowering women through sustainable cooperative entrepreneurship moving in a positive direction.

This image is from the Cooplus organization. You can find their Facebook for more information @cooplus

My Summer as a Baucus Leader

My global theme is Culture and Politics, and my global challenge is how to ensure a quality standard of living for all people in a local community.

This summer, I was a Baucus Leader and completed an internship at the United States Senate. My internship took place with Senator Crapo, who serves as the ranking member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance. The Finance Committee deals with issues such as healthcare, retirement, labor, infrastructure, and more.

Caught on camera in the background of the Banking Committee’s hearing on Examining Bipartisan Bills to Increase Access to Housing

Over the summer, this committee held a number of hearings to search for solutions that address issues that affect local communities. Some of these included Funding and Financing Options to Bolster American Infrastructure, Mental Health Care in America: Addressing Root Causes and Identifying Policy Solutions, and Building on Bipartisan Retirement Legislation: How Can Congress Help. In fact, I was even able to attend the hearing on retirement legislation and watch the senators collaboratively discuss bipartisan solutions for expanding Americans’ retirement savings in order for them to live dignified post-retirement lives. Another pertinent hearing I had the opportunity to sit in on was the Banking Committee’s hearing on Examining Bipartisan Bills to Increase Access to Housing.

My Beyond the Classroom Experience added layers to my global challenge even outside of the internship itself. Living in Washington, D.C. exposed me to a completely different type of local community than any other places that I have spent extended time in. It had its unique strengths, such as clean public transportation systems and extensive green space interspersed throughout the city. It also presented its own set of challenges, such as homeless encampments being shut down and prolific gun violence permeating the city.

One of the challenges that I didn’t foresee was how difficult it was for me to find access to COVID-19 testing. Because I was living in the city without a car, I was unable to utilize most of the testing sites because they require people to remain in their cars through a drive-thru. I was troubled by how significant of a barrier access to a vehicle proved to be, especially during a pandemic.

Emerging from my experience in Washington this summer, I believe I am better equipped to tackle community challenges. Working at the Senate exposed me to the inner processes behind national policy-making and demonstrated the roles of various actors, such as legislators, staff members, lobbyists, and the executive and judicial branches in those processes.

I came into this internship with a perspective particular to growing up in the inland northwest and got to challenge many of many preconceived notions by living and working in a very different place. This summer has sparked the desire in me to spend time in more places around the country and the world to diversify my life experiences.

Hosting Montana Public Radio News

My view this summer in the studio. I hosted newscasts multiple times daily here, and took one (1) low-quality selfie.

My name is Aidan Morton and I chose to be a part of the “inequality and human rights” global theme because I’m passionate about finding way(s) inequalities in social, economic and political power and status impact everyone around us. I’ve found that more often than not we find these inequalities by pulling back the curtain, and analyzing the otherwise unseen ramifications of what’s happening in our state and its effect on those around us. It’s something I learned in the University of Montana School of Journalism and my classes in GLI, and something that became more apparent while interning at Montana Public Radio this summer. 

Although I stayed in Missoula for my Beyond the Classroom experience this summer, I felt completely immersed in a new position with new roles. I gained a new perspective as a news host and reporter in a busy newsroom and was required to learn and act quickly. The news this summer came in hot and fast (pun intended) and it was my job to get it to listeners in our region. Every weekday, I was required to host multiple newscasts on the air while chasing individually reported stories. From chatting with wildland firefighters and police chiefs to biologists and conservationists, I gained a sense of how rapidly drought took hold in the west, and how persistent its effects were and will be on Montanans and Montana industries. In this position, I reported grizzly deaths, police involved deaths, Covid-19 deaths and even the deaths and memorials of Montana icons. It really felt like I had my finger on the pulse of Montana news. 

Besides learning time management and efficient editing skills, I learned how to effectively orchestrate and communicate these stories over the air and identify trends among these events that developed over the summer. When I look back at my experience through the lens of my global theme, I notice how rapidly stories and examples of inequalities and human rights obstructions/violations came up. Furthermore, I notice how quickly those events were put in the backseat as more developments unsurfaced. I learned the importance of being timely and up to date as more news broke, but more importantly I learned that revisiting older news and trends is vital in making sure reports of injustice or wrongdoing do not expire. 

I  feel that my leadership skills have most drastically improved in my voice as a young journalist. It was reassuring to have the support of professionals in my work, especially as I caught my footing in this new role and began to try new things. Most of all, I valued the connections I made with the professionals in this field and I appreciated their patience and mentorship as I grew in the position. Every day in the newsroom was truly different, and I loved the challenge this dynamic brought. As I listen back on my first days at the job in May, I’m surprised how much and how quickly I grew in this role. Going forward, I trust that the skills I’ve learned and improvements I’ve made, both as a person and in my career, will help me more confidently analyze and speak out as I see abuses of human rights and inequality. 

Listen to a feature I reported and produced at this link:

Summer at the PEAS Farm

Hello! My name is Sonia Bornemann and for my GLI Global Theme, I chose to work on Natural Resources and Sustainability. While there are a lot of options to choose from as far as out of classroom experiences go in this field, I spent my summer at the PEAS Farm. While here, I learned truly what natural resources are and how they can be used sustainably. I was able to have hands-on experiences with the earth in healthy ways while also helping good causes like the  food bank. While I didn’t get to experience different cultures, I did get to engage with my community like never before. Food and therefore farms really do have a way of bringing people together. It helped me to realize that I want to be a community leader in the sustainability movement. I want to help educate others and hopefully help to keep others healthy during these rapidly changing times. 

Food is a huge part of sustainability. I knew this before I started working at the farm, but now I know what actually has to be done in order to make food production sustainable. Many of my preconceived ideas about meat production and what farms looked like were proven wrong the more I learned. I realized that cattle ranchers could actually sequester carbon so long as they manage their fields properly. And If farms dont rotate their crops then the soil will be quickly depleted of essential nutrients. Many of the issues surrounding food production and it’s toll on the environment come from treating the land and animals on it poorly in the name of profits. This all could change if people learned what buying local is and the many benefits it has. 

Our group learning about plant families

While I learned a lot about Natural Resources and Sustainability, I also gained some very important leadership skills. Not in the manner I expected to though. Every day we worked at the farm, two people would branch off early to cook lunch for everyone. We all took turns so each of us had to cook about seven times throughout the experience. Most days we would also have to cook for instructors, guests, and the Youth Harvest Program as well. This adds up to usually around 20-25 people. And as far as ingredients, we had a few essentials like rice and oil, and then whatever we could harvest on the farm. Naturally, this took quite a bit of problem solving. I went from never having cooked for anyone but myself, to cooking for many strangers in an outdoor kitchen with chickens roaming around real quick. But I remember cooking in the first week and on the last day. I was at first very unsure of myself and trying to rely on others too much. On the last day I made sure to use everyone’s strengths to produce the best meal that I could for everyone ( and it was delicious). While I gained leadership experience from problem solving on the farm as well, when I was put into a situation outside of my comfort zone and forced to make do with what was available, I learned my own strengths and weaknesses as well as how to utilize others strengths. It’s not an experience I was expecting nor would I have expected to learn so much from it. But now I feel more confident about cooking for myself and others, as well as my own abilities. 

Cooking in the outdoor kitchen

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, D.C.

Hello! My name is John Nicholas Mills, but I go by Nick. My GLI global theme is natural resources and sustainability. As part of my Beyond the Classroom Experience, this past summer I interned with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) International Affairs Program in Washington, D.C. I’m interested in using law and policy to protect and expand wildlife habitat/ecosystems, and this experience allowed me to further explore the conservation field while getting a taste of the big city lifestyle along the way. I learned how the federal government, NGO’s and other organizations are working to conserve wildlife and natural resources within the United States and abroad. Importantly, I got to be part of a team of biologists and policy makers that are conserving wildlife internationally.

During my internship, I also participated in the Demmer Scholars Program. Students from UMT, Michigan State, and Mississippi State participated in this natural resource policy oriented class. Around 12 of us lived in D.C. for the summer. We all interned at different organizations in the private and public sectors in D.C, which expanded my knowledge of how natural resource policy is made and the relevant issues within the field. We also got to learn from and ask questions to different guest speakers. Some highlights for me included USFS Chief Vikki Christensen, Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin, NRCS Chief Terry Crosby, and former USFWS Chief of Refuges Geoff Haskett. We visited policy making centers, field stations, and scenic areas in D.C. and throughout the east. Being apart of this program helped me form a bond with other cohort members as we learned to navigate the big city, while also expanding my perspective through the diverse range of individuals I got to know and hear from. I was able to become more confident in asking questions and reaching out for advise relating to my interests and career path.

At the USFWS office where I worked this summer. “we envision a world where all people value nature and conserve living resources for the well-being of life on Earth.”

The USFWS has always interested me because of its role as a federal agency whose primary mission is to conserve wildlife, plants, and their habitats. As an intern for USFWS International Affairs, I worked with a dedicated and knowledgable team of civil servants to accomplish a broad range of conservation goals internationally. Specifically, I worked with laws and regulations such as the Endangered Species Act, CITES, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act to ensure that international wildlife trade is not harmful to species and their habitats. I was in constant contact with the general public, other federal agencies, and various international authorities. As a result, l left my internship with stronger communication skills while also further appreciating the importance of collaboration to successfully conserve wildlife and plants. While working in a cubicle in a big city for the summer was a new experience for me, being part of the process to conserve the outdoors and wildlife I learned to love here in Montana was undoubtedly a valuable experience that I was fortunate to be a part of.

With MT Senator Jon Tester

I also had the chance to sit down with Montana Senator Jon Tester and tour the U.S. Capitol. We were able to talk about conservation issues in our home state, and how the Senator is advancing policy in D.C. that will benefit Montanans and the public land that makes Montana so special. While our planet is currently experiencing a biodiversity crisis due in large part to human activities, my experience showed me that many people from different backgrounds and organizations are working diligently to protect and expand earths natural wonders, and I hope to continue to be a part of this effort in the future. Thanks for reading!

With my cohort members at the Watergate Hotel

Summer PEAS Farm Intensive Experience

As an out-of-state student at the University of Montana I found my Beyond the Classroom Experience to be a blessing in disguise. Originally, I had planned to spend a semester studying abroad at the University of Tasmania. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic my experience was cancelled, and I had to get creative to meet the GLI Beyond the Classroom requirements.

I am an Environmental Studies major and constantly heard about the intensive PEAS Farm class our department provides. I decided to participate in the class for my requirement. Although it wasn’t four months on a tropical rainforest island it was a 12-week experience I will never forget.

My Global Theme and Challenge for the GLI program is Natural Resource and Sustainability. I chose this theme because I’ve been interested in creating more accessible information on how to become more sustainable in our world’s everchanging situation. The PEAS Farm stands for Program in Ecological Agriculture and Sustainability. The program offers a summer long outdoor classroom experience learning about how to practice agriculture in a way that works with nature, and how to provide pounds of produce for the community in a sustainable way.

Picking flowers for CSA bouquets.

I grew up in a Minneapolis suburb where it seemed eating local meant grabbing a block of cheese labeled “Made in Wisconsin”. There wasn’t much education around the topic, and almost no time for hustling suburban families to understand the importance of knowing exactly how food gets to their table.

While getting my hands dirty each day on the farm, I learned an important factor when it comes to local and sustainable food production – community. Finding a place in the smaller PEAS community, and then the greater Missoula community was a feeling unlike any other.

It was eye-opening to see how necessary community is in making sustainability accessible. Each person working on the farm, and each person buying the produce understood how important it was to eat food locally. It changed my perspective on how achievable sustainability is, and I now understand with good education and effective outreach communities can be brought together to create real change.

View of farm in mid-July; flower patch out to corn field.

At the beginning of the summer, I had no idea all that farming entailed. As the summer progressed, I was able to step into a leadership role with my fellow crew members, and community. I enjoyed being a leader on the farm by facilitating the creation of what we called “FARMily”. Bringing people together and creating a safe place was a role I was honored to have, and it became essential for producing nourishing food for others.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to spend a summer in Montana soil and gaining new perspectives on the Missoula community. With all the knowledge I now have surrounding natural resource and sustainability I am excited to take the next step and find ways to keep learning more while educating others.

Clark’s Fork Fish Hatchery

Hi! My name is Abby Vogt and my global theme is Natural Resources and Sustainability. This past summer, for my Beyond the Classroom Experience, I interned at the Clark’s Fork Fish Hatchery. This fish hatchery is located in Clark, Wyoming and has 5 full time employees. I worked to rear fish from eyed eggs to catchable size for stocking. The purpose of rearing and stocking is to maintain sustainable fish populations in public waters while also providing anglers the opportunity to recreate in these waters. My summer experience directly connects to my global theme through the vital management of natural resources in the state of Wyoming.

I learned so much through this experience. Before the internship, I knew I had an interest in fish management, but I didn’t know a lot about the hatchery process. I learned about the entire process of rearing fish. I learned to properly care through feeding, sampling, cleaning, and stocking multiple fish species at once. During my time at the hatchery, we reared Fall rainbow trout, Eagle Lake rainbow trout, Bear River cutthroat trout, Snake River cutthroat trout, Yellowstone cutthroat trout, and Kokanee salmon. Many of these species we received as eggs and by the time I was done, they had grown enough to be transferred into the hatchery tanks and eventually to the outdoor raceways.

I didn’t realize how vital the management of fish species were in the state. Wyoming is a very outdoors focused state and thousands of people take pride in their ability to use its resources, especially fishing. Without the work of the ten hatcheries in the state, the populations of multiple fish species would be extremely diminished and sustainable populations of fish would not be possible. There are a lot of diverse perspectives in regard to natural resources and sustainability, especially in relation to fish hatcheries. There is the environmental perspective of maintaining populations but also the angler perspective of being able to enjoy fishing and the thrill of being in the outdoors. It is clear that many anglers care deeply about the management of natural resources to keep populations thriving in the state.

One of my favorite moments while working at the hatchery was when I was able to go stock a very popular lake in Cody. Beck Lake is a popular spot for families to enjoy fishing as well as swimming. Often during stocking trips, people will come up and ask what we are doing or what types of fish are being stocked. This time there was a family with two little kids that came up and asked about the stocking. These kids were super excited because they had never seen a stocking truck or watched a stocking occur. We often try to engage kids in stock trips to encourage future angling and outdoor experiences. We allowed the kids to drop a net of fish in the lake from the truck. They were very excited to be able to put fish into the lake and see them swim off. It is experiences like this that show kids what they can do in the future and it gets them excited about the outdoors.

These are hatchery tanks that hold fish until they are big enough to transfer outside.
These are egg jars that circulate eggs until they hatch.

The Montana Innocence Project

On day one of my internship at the Montana Innocence Project my supervisor asked to meet at the picnic tables outside of the Alexander Blewett III law school to review my summer assignments. I was eager to help, even though I was unsure what I would be helping with… or where the picnic tables outside the law school were at. With one hand on the handlebars and one wrestling with an americano I rolled my bike to a stop in front of my supervisor, sat down, and by the meetings end I had compiled a list of assignments in my notebook. Now, as I cross the last of those assignments from my notebook in my final week at MTIP, I have a lot to smile about and little to forget. My global theme is “inequality and human rights” and I worked with the development and communications associate at the MTIP, whose mission is to exonerate the innocent and prevent wrongful convictions. During this experience, I have made incredible connections with impressive people, and I have learned a ton including: how to better synthesize expert jargon to write a story that connects with people, how to better research on the internet using tools like google alerts, how to create engaging social media posts and I have learned the difference between journalism and writing as part of an organization’s communications team. But the most impactful and all-encompassing realization that this internship has provided me is that “justice” in our criminal legal system is more subjective than I previously had thought. And the work MTIP is doing is admirable and very closely aligned with my idea of “justice.” It has spurred me to consider law school more seriously. And it has made me more aware of the criminal legal system’s often unknown or misunderstood obstacles that are placed before somebody charged with a crime in the US. I chose this beyond the classroom experience because to entertain my own interests and to explore my global theme of “inequality and human rights” and it did just that. As I wrote in the article I have linked on the picture below: Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “It is better 100 guilty persons should escape than that one innocent person should suffer.” But to MTIP legal director Caiti Carpenter, “That’s not how the system works. We are a system of efficiency, more often than not.”

Washington DC

My global theme is Inequality and Human Rights. This theme means different things to different people, but I use it to explore how the world is shaped by disparities in education, gender equality, and political power. Inequalities are woven into the institutions, norms, and language around us. When enough people find these inconsistencies unacceptable, we have a chance to change. 

This summer, I went to Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. and interned in Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office. I was in the gallery while the historic infrastructure vote was passed, I saw Dr. Anthony Fauci walk down the hallway, and I listened to the Capitol Policemen’s testimonies on the January 6th insurrection. Washington D.C., itself is proof of forward motion, positive change, and history created. 

The most important thing to me was being exposed to different people from different places with different life experiences and world views. I’ve been in Montana for most of my life, often around like-minded people. The internship was in a Minnesota office, where I met with Texas delegations, ate with Maine interns and talked with people from around the United States. We got to discuss different issues, their opinions, and our preferred outcomes. This was worth the trip.

Most importantly, this experience showed me the leader I don’t want to be. Another intern and I were chosen to sign Senators and their staff into a committee meeting our first week. When we got to the meeting, it was set up differently than requested. Without missing a beat, the man in charge started yelling. He was yelling at the catering staff, his own employees, into his phone, at the interns. I had never heard someone talk to people so harshly. The other intern and I left that meeting thankful he was not our permanent boss. If there comes a day when I talk to someone like he talked to those around him, I will rescind my place as a leader. He showed no compassion, sympathy, or patience, three very important traits.

Coming away from this experience, I know that the political world is not for me, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. There are still cultures and environments I haven’t met and problems we haven’t solved.