University of Montana Western students completed their first “block” of 2016-17 this week. The university is the only public four-year institution teaching under Experience One where students take a single-class-at-a-time in 18-day blocks.
“At Montana Western, faculty provide concentrated, hands-on experiences allowing our students to become fully involved in their education. They learn while doing and Experience One makes education much more meaningful now and into the future," Chancellor Beth Weatherby said.
Chancellor Weatherby said examples of Experience One in action during block one include:
Geology Professor Rebekah Levine's hydrology class was busy assessing beaver activity and wetlands generation on Alkali Creek southeast of Dillon, as well as assessing restoration work by The Nature Conservancy on Long and Middle Creeks in the the Centennial Valley.
First-year environmental sciences Professor Spruce Schoenemann spent eight of the 18 block days in the field with his geology of the American west class. Students experienced class subject matter by traveling to areas including the university's Birch Creek Outdoor Center in the Pioneer Mountains, Yellowstone National Park, Craters of the Moon National Monument and geologic locations throughout Beaverhead County.
“It was great spending so much time out in the field obtaining experience I will be able to use after I graduate and begin my career,” junior Sharon Williams said.
Williams is currently pursuing an environmental sciences degree with an emphasis in geology. She plans to later obtain a Master of Science in cartography and geographic information system (GIS) and begin working in GIS.
“By the end of the 18-day class, my geology students are able to assess the landscape around the intermountain west, interpret the geologic and surficial processes at work, and predict how the landscape may evolve in the future,” Schoenemann said. “This wouldn’t be possible without the fieldwork exposure and the immersive nature of classes at UMW.”
Longtime Professor of English Alan Weltzien took students from his English composition class outside of the classroom to experience scenes from Norman Maclean’s books, “A River Runs Through It” and
“Young Men and Fire.” For the former, the class was given a guided tour of the Blackfoot River near Seeley, Mont. and shown the locations mentioned in Maclean’s classic novel.
“Spending the day sitting on the bank of the Big Blackfoot River listening to a kind, old fly fisherman read passages from “A River Runs Through It” was the best way to spend an English class,” freshman Madison Singleton said. “I’m blessed that I get to go to a school where we can have experiences like this. I have never felt anything so powerful as hearing Norman Maclean's words while sitting in the very scenes he was describing.”
Weltzien’s class also traveled just north of Helena, Mont. to the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness to hike into Mann Gulch and discuss the tragic true story of “Young Men and Fire.” Maclean’s book deconstructs the Mann Gulch fire and events that led to the death of 13 smokejumpers in 1949.
“It’s not enough for my students to simply read Norman Maclean. They need to get outside and experience his words firsthand,” Weltzien said. “Experience One affords the opportunity to go on these kinds of trips that have a profound impact on students’ ability to comprehend the material.”
Under Experience One, Montana Western students attend eight blocks, or classes, throughout the school year receiving the same amount of credit as under traditional semesters.
— MONTANA WESTERN —