Monday, June 27, 2016


Erik Swanson tabling at U of M Volunteer Fair
Erik Swanson started his year of service as a Montana Campus Compact (MTCC) VISTA back in July of 2015.  Erik has made a ridiculously significant positive impact within his service site, the Missoula Public Library MakerSpace. The MakerSpace supports STEM learning, and provides resurces and tools to support innovative ideas to become reality.  Erik has grown the MakerSpace's capacity and increased its volunteer involvement, hours donated, and classes offered to levels the MakersSpace has never seen before.

Here is what Erik had to say about his service: 

What is your background and what led you to VISTA service?
The driving principal of my life is mutual aid: people help each other because it is beneficial to do so. I enjoy serving my community. It makes me happy. Before VISTA, I was struggling with my depression, and rarely left my house. Getting involved in my community helped me care about it, and become a healthier person.

Talk about what your project is about, and what you're working on?
Erik reading to students on MLK

My service is with the Missoula Public Library's Makerspace. We provide a space for community member's to learn and practice hands on 'making' skills. We do everything from 3d printing and modeling to jewelry crafting and electronics. We help people turn their ideas into physical things. The goal of the VISTA project is to provide STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) skills to struggling Missoula youth. These skills will help them thrive in the 21st century technology world. My main tasks are recruiting and training volunteers, and creating and overseeing educational programs. My favorite current class is our 'Computer Programming Through Minecraft.' This course teaches children the fundamentals of computer science through the lens of Minecraft, one of the world's most popular games.

How have you incorporated your campus partner into your efforts?
My campus partner is SpectrUM, (Missoula's hands-on science center) so we have a common interest in children's STEM activities. Besides referrals, I have also deepened our partnership through summer camp visits and sharing technology resources. In the spring I attended SpectrUM's Innovate UM conference as a guest tabler for the MakerSpace. 

What motivates you to serve as a VISTA?
A desire to help others and learn new things.

What are your plans after VISTA?
After VISTA I plan to serve as a Makerspace Manager and continue volunteering in my community.

Erik will complete his service on July 17, 2016. We at the MTCC network office want to thank him for his hard work in service to the Missoula community and to our country as a whole. We wish him luck in all future endeavors! 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Jade Williamson, FVCC student
College Debate '16,  just held its national student convening at Campus Compact affiliate institution Dominican University, in San Rafael, California. Montana was lucky to send Jade Williamson, a student from Flathead Valley Community College, to the event. Student delegates representing colleges and universities from all 50 states and DC met on the Dominican campus to plan strategies for using social media to expand conversations with young voters nationwide about the issues that matter most to them. Using social media and campus-based discussions, student delegates catalyzed discussions among young voters across the country to make their voices heard in the 2016 presidential debates and election.  The College Debate initiative offers student delegates the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the social issues that matter most to student voters, practice essential civic skills through leadership and collaboration, and the chance to engage in political discourse and promote civic engagement.

Jade recently reported back on her experience at the event:

Dr. Syb Brown, who is a professor at Belmont University, and also an accomplished journalist, was one of the speakers during our three-day seminar. She spoke with us specifically on social media trends and the digital footprint that each of us leaves. Social media and digital marketing affects our personal lives as well as professional lives. Dr. Brown was lively and animated which immediately engaged our attention. It is known that social media can help market products, people, and even new ideas. However, we did not learn solely learn the positive benefits of social media marketing but the drawbacks it can also have as well.

Another speaker, whom I got to speak with personally, was the Secretary of State of California, Alex Padilla. He voiced the importance of getting citizens, especially America’s youth, out to the voting booths. While his speech was non-partisan, he told us of his story. Secretary Padilla grew up without much opportunity in a lower economic community, but he was determined to make opportunities for himself. He worked hard through school and graduated from MIT with a degree in engineering. Later, he became concerned with the political issues that stricken California. Once again, he worked his way to success starting his journey in the Los Angeles City Counsel, to the State Senate, and as of 2015 to the role of Secretary of State. Secretary Padilla inspires me to chase after what I am passionate about and reiterates the importance of young Americans being involved in politics. He especially inspired me because of his background and his perseverance as a minority, of which I can relate.

I would also like to talk about Julie Winokur’s mission. She is the Executive Director of Talking Eyes Media, a magazine writer, and a documentary filmmaker. Her work has appeared on PBS, the Documentary Channel, MediaStorm, National Geographic Magazine, and Discovery online, as well as in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, and! She is beyond talented, and Winokur works extensively with nonprofit organizations to develop their messages, and she is also on the faculty of the International Center of Photography. Her current project is called “Bring It to the Table” which I hope to bring to our campus for our student body to participate in. This project consists of a short documentary, webisode series, online platform, and community engagement campaign aimed at bridging political divides and breaking down partisanship. The Table is a citizen’s antidote to political ranting. Anyone game enough to sit at The Table is invited to discuss pressing national issues, such as taxation, the economy, same-sex marriage, civil rights, abortion, religion, and immigration. People are asked to explain the roots of their beliefs, so we understand WHY they believe WHAT they believe. This idea is precisely what the goals of the Coalition of Political Awareness strive to achieve, and my hopes are that this sort of setting will help students, teachers, and staff at FVCC ease into discussing the political issues we face.

Julie and her crew are interested in learning which of our beliefs cross over to the other side of the political spectrum and how have our opinions evolved over time. They ask questions like “What does the other side get right?” At The Table, “ordinary” citizens are given an opportunity to speak their minds, openly and authentically. No ranting. No rhetoric. Just straight, honest talk that reveals the value systems behind our personal political views. I hope to do this with the citizens of FVCC.

I feel so privileged and grateful for the opportunity that the FVCC Foundation has given me. This seminar was only part one of a two-part trip. In September, when I return to Dominican University, the stakes will be even higher! There will be national media coverage as all the delegates are trying to make the college debate a national movement, and FVCC—and the state of Montana—are on the front lines of this undertaking. Not only am I learning life long skills but I have also formed lifelong relationships with other delegates who are passionate like me. I look forward to bringing back even more phenomenal ideas to our college campus!

Thanks for representing your campus, community and our state, Jade! We look forward to hearing more from you this fall!