skip to main content


Rob Thomas

The decision to come from New York to Dillon, Mont. was an easy decision for Montana Western environmental sciences Professor Rob Thomas. One factor trumped all others: location.

Thomas says there is no other place he would rather be teaching geology and environmental science. A stone’s throw from Yellowstone National Park, Montana Western is surrounded on three sides by the Continental Divide with lofty mountain ranges, pristine rivers and seemingly endless valleys in all directions.

During his time at Montana Western, Thomas helped transform the university into a center of experiential learning using the Experience One system.

“I don’t think experiences for undergraduates doing the type of research we do for a class like this exist,” Thomas explains. “There just isn’t time. The memorize-regurgitate method is not inspiring. Education is about motivating and this is a new way of motivating by doing.”

Thomas was recently acknowledged for his efforts in UMW's transition to Experience One with the 2009 Baccalaureate Colleges U.S. Professor of the Year. Thomas is the first and only Montana professor to win this prestigious award.

More often than not, students in Thomas’ class will find themselves out in the field gathering data and observing in real life what many undergraduates only read about in books. As Thomas often says, “Southwestern Montana is our lab.”

Thomas’ recent research projects have included the geologic history of the northern margin of the Yellowstone hot spot and the assessment of fluvial Arctic grayling habitat restoration on the upper Big Hole River. He also continues to study Cambrian mass extinctions and other sedimentological problems throughout the western United States. Thomas is currently working on a book of Yellowstone-area geology with City University of New York Staten Island President Bill Fritz and a book on Montana geology with UMW colleague Sheila Roberts. In 2009, Thomas was named the Outstanding Baccalaureate Colleges U.S. Professor of the Year by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. In 2010 he was named the Montana Regents Professor.

Because the block system truly challenges students, Thomas says it also rewards them with both the knowledge and inspiration needed to thrive in post-graduate studies and professional work.

“There’s no falling through the cracks here, and it’s not coddling,” Thomas asserts. “The block takes the highest level of commitment and passion and enthusiasm.”

Only at Montana Western.

X oneMontana Western is the only public college in the country to offer a block scheduling program. We call this innovative program Experience One (X1).

Join us for Xday.


Experience the University of Montana Western difference firsthand at our special Xday event on Friday, March 18. Call 877-683-7331 or click here to reserve your spot today.

Can't join us for Xday?

Click here to schedule an individual campus visit at a more convenient time.

Find out more about the Montana Western difference.


We’d like to tell you more about our remarkable university. Join our mailing list and we’ll send you information.


A remarkable celebration.

umw seal

Thank you to all who joined us to celebrate Experience One and the inauguration of Chancellor Beth Weatherby. Click to see video and images of the event.

Provost Search

Provost image 240

UMW conducts national search for new provost.

The University of Montana Western has launched a national search for the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs position.

(read more)