The Billings Outpost

Balloon takes experiments right to edge of space

MSU News Service

BOZEMAN – A balloon that traveled to the edge of space last week carried two Montana State University experiments.

One experiment – launched Feb. 19 and retrieved Feb. 20 after reaching 102,200 feet – tested a tracking and high-definition link that MSU hopes to use during a total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017. The Montana Space Grant Consortium is organizing a national effort where college students across the United States will monitor the eclipse with high-altitude balloons.

The second experiment tested a computer system that’s designed to resist radiation in space. MSU recently received word that the tiny satellite it designed to carry the system was one of 14 CubeSats selected to fly on an upcoming NASA mission. 

“It was just awesome,” Angela Des Jardins, director of the Montana Space Grant Consortium, said about the 7 a.m. balloon launch. “Our students were thrilled to be there and be part of it.”

MSU was one of two universities invited to send experiments on the balloon, an opportunity that arose from connections between MSU’s Dave Klumpar and World View, Des Jardins said.

World View is the commercial balloon spaceflight company that launched the research flight from the Tucson, Ariz., area.

Klumpar is director of MSU’s Space Science and Engineering Laboratory.

The other university that flew an experiment on the balloon was the University of North Florida. That experiment was designed to measure the ozone gas profile in the stratosphere.

The research and education payloads are part of World View’s commitment to opening routine access to high-altitude balloon flights, as well as its dedication to advancing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs in schools, according to a Feb. 20 press release from World View. All three experiments involved multiple students over multiple years.

Randy Larimer, deputy director of the Montana Space Grant Consortium, said more than 40 graduate students and undergraduate students over eight years were involved in designing the computer system. They are led by MSU faculty member Brock LaMeres in the College of Engineering. Besides flying on an upcoming satellite mission in 2016, the technology is scheduled to be tested on the International Space Station later this year.

More than 15 students at MSU and Iowa State University contributed to the design of the video link that flew on the World View balloon, Larimer added.

Larimer and four MSU students went to Arizona for the balloon launch. The students were Sam Harkness, a graduate student in electrical engineering; Scott Miller, a senior in computer engineering; Tim Basta, a senior in mechanical engineering; and Trevor Clark, a senior in electrical engineering.

To learn more about the balloon flight and MSU’s Balloon Outreach, Research, Exploration and Landscape Imaging System (BOREALIS), go to

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 February 2015 16:58

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City College announces Coppersmith as dean

MSU Billings News Services

After a national search, Clifford P. Coppersmith has been named the new dean of City College at Montana State University Billings.

“Dr. Coppersmith brings a wealth of administrative experience to City College,” said Mark Pagano, vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost.  “We look forward to his leadership as we continue to position City College as one of the premiere comprehensive two-year institutions in our region.”

Coppersmith said he is excited about the opportunity to return to the West and looks forward to the challenges ahead.

“It is an honor to accept the invitation to continue the development of City College and embrace its mission of providing career focused training and education for the citizens of this region of Montana,” said Coppersmith. “I look forward to working with local business and industry, college staff and faculty, and City College students in this great endeavor.”

Coppersmith is currently the dean of the School of Sciences, Humanities and Visual Communications at Pennsylvania College of Technology. He has held that position since 2008 and has worked for the college since 2004. Before joining Pennsylvania College of Technology he served in several administrative positions at the College of Eastern Utah. Coppersmith also taught history and anthropology at both institutions.

Coppersmith received an associate in social science from Jamestown Community College in Jamestown, New York. He went on to attain a bachelor’s in political science and Latin American studies from Brigham Young University, a master’s in history from St. Bonaventure University, and a doctorate in history and anthropology from Oklahoma State University.

Diane Duin, dean of the College of Allied Health Professions and Richard Pierce, department chair of general education at City College led the 14-member search committee that selected Coppersmith.

“The search committee had some tough decisions to make as the quality of applicants was very impressive,” said Duin. “I am extremely proud of the work performed by my colleagues on the committee. We believe Dr. Coppersmith will be a great addition to MSU Billings and City College.”

The interim City College dean, Rita Kratky, introduced Coppersmith to the campus community.

“I am excited to start working with Dr. Coppersmith,” remarked Kratky. “City College and MSU Billings are at a pivotal point and with his leadership the sky is the limit.”

Dr. Coppersmith and his wife, Kathleen, have three children, Cory, Kate and Caroline.

Dr. Kratky will continue to serve as interim dean until Coppersmith joins MSU Billings on July 1.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 February 2015 16:56

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MSU ranks 144th in U.S.

MSU News Service

BOZEMAN – Montana State University recently earned the 144th spot on The Business Journals’ 2015 list ranking U.S. public colleges. It is the highest rank earned by an institution in Montana.

The Business Journals’ rankings are based on several factors, including retention and graduation rates, admissions processes, tuition and housing costs, diversity of faculties and student bodies, and economic strength of communities. The study covered 484 public colleges and universities.

With an enrollment of more than 15,000 students, MSU offers more than 125 major options within its colleges and programs. MSU is also designated as one of 108 universities – out of 4,600 institutions – with very high research activity by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Of those 108, only 51 – including MSU – are also classified by Carnegie as having significant commitment to community engagement. And of those, MSU is the only institution whose Carnegie enrollment profile is “very high undergraduate.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 February 2015 16:55

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Transmittal deadline looms in Helena

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Jon Tester met this month with students, teachers and staff from Billings West High School.

At the meeting, students and teachers asked questions about making college tuition more affordable, term limits for members of Congress, dropping oil prices, and how Tester juggles his work on the farm and in the Senate. The students also asked Tester why he chose to enter into public service.

“It was a treat to meet with Billings students on Capitol Hill. They asked great questions and demonstrated knowledge about important issues facing our state and nation,” said Tester, a former teacher. “Meeting with Montana students underscores the importance of educating young folks about civics to prepare them to lead.”

Tester asked the high school seniors about their plans after graduation. All of them said they are planning to attend either four-year or two-year colleges, and one student plans on enlisting in the military.

The students and staff were visiting Washington, D.C., as part of a school trip to learn more about American history and how government works.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 February 2015 16:53

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Grant helps Rocky expand debate opportunities

With the recent renewal of the Tribal College Debate Grant, RMC’s debate team anticipates providing more opportunities for debating during the spring 2015 semester.

“The Tribal College debate program hopes to expand to more colleges,” said RMC’s Associate Professor of Communication Studies Shelby Jo Long-Hammond. “We are currently in discussion with two other tribal colleges in Eastern Montana for workshop sessions during this semester.”

The RMC debate team has already been hard at work, spending the first week in February at Little Big Horn College for workshops and mini-debate sessions. Throughout the week, RMC debate team members conducted argumentation exercises with students from Professor Luella Brien’s class at Little Big Horn College. Brien is the professor of communication arts at Little Big Horn College.

During the workshops and mini-debates, RMC’s debate team had the chance to engage with the students at Little Big Horn College about issues that were controversial on the reservation. They also explored some feasible and practical solutions.

The program is part of the Tribal College Debate Grant, which was awarded to Long-Hammond in April 2013. Long-Hammond received the $34,000 grant to launch a pilot debate program, which began on tribal campuses, including Little Big Horn College, Chief Dull Knife College, and other tribal colleges. The grant was renewed in 2014 for another year and a half.

“Cultural engagement is really powerful,” said Long-Hammond. Her hope is for this program to provide debate education and professional speaking at these tribal colleges, as they have a stake in many important social, political, and environmental issues. There are a number of political debates currently affecting Native American reservations in Montana, including coal and coal-bed-methane mining, subsidies for agriculture, and many other environmental policies.

Long-Hammond believes that a debate network in these tribal schools will help provide an opportunity for college students to develop essential critical thinking and professional communication skills necessary for discussion of the political debates that confront these particular areas of Montana. “There is an importance to being able to discuss multiple political and environmental issues on the reservation, but many of the skills we practice are career preparation,” said Long-Hammond.

Long-Hammond described how the Tribal College debate program has focused on the fundamentals of debate, including basic argumentation, critical thinking, and public speaking. “By taking out the structure of debate and making it more curricular, it is less intimidating,” said Long-Hammond.

The workshops conducted at the tribal colleges focus on the importance of debate and argumentation education, with critical thinking exercises. They discuss the elements of a basic argument and practice argument construction with different resolutions. During the week, the students work on refutation, fallacies, and engagement of arguments. Following the basic understanding of argument structure, students engage some of their ideas and arguments in a mini-debate.

“A new project we are working on for this semester is a debate tournament with Chief Dullknife College, Little Big Horn College, and RMC,” said Long-Hammond. “With the tremendous support we have had from Luella Brien and Kate Bertin at each of these colleges, we feel that there is an established infrastructure to conduct a debate between our colleges. We anticipate a debate tournament toward the end of the semester.”

The Tribal College Debate Grant was awarded by Open Society Institute through International Debate Education Association (IDEA), an organization that has been in existence for over 20 years and works with young people from all over the world. Long-Hammond is part of IDEA and has taught at camps in Bosnia, Slovenia, and Mexico, just to name a few.

You can follow the RMC Debate Team’s work with the grant at, or on Facebook and Twitter by following the RMC Debate page.

All students are welcome to attend practices in Morledge-Kimball Hall Room 125 on Tuesdays and Thursday from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. For more information or questions, contact Shelby Jo Long-Hammond at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 February 2015 13:39

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Teaching chances expand

MSU News Service

 BOZEMAN – For years, students from the Montana State University Department of Education have completed their student teaching in rural Montana schools. Thanks to a pair of gifts totaling $150,000, more students may soon be able to do the same.

The gifts – $125,000 from MSU alumni Diane Knapp Pulfrey and her husband, Cory Pulfrey, and

$25,000 from Janyce and David Hoyt – will support rural student teaching scholarships.

 “The Department of Education is very appreciative of the Pulfreys’ and the Hoyts’ generous gifts,” said Jayne Downey, professor and head of the department. “We have a real passion for working with kids in rural communities, and this assistance will allow more of our students to student teach in rural Montana.”

MSU’s education department has long been committed to preparing its graduates to teach in rural and small schools.

Last Updated on Saturday, 21 February 2015 13:38

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MSU Billings announces $4.4 million budget cut

MSU Billings News Services

Montana State University Billings faculty, staff and students were alerted to the institution’s $4.4 million budget shortfall during a series of Budget Briefings held at both the university and City College campuses on Dec. 10, 2014.

University officials held another series of briefings Tuesday so the campus community could hear the results of a nearly two-month campus-wide endeavor to balance the budget against declining enrollment. The plan outlines reductions across the entire campus and throughout all five major budget areas.

“Our continued enrollment decline is not isolated to one area of campus; it affects all of us,” remarked first-year Chancellor Mark Nook. “Academic Affairs, Athletics, Administrative Services, Student Affairs and my division have all proposed strategic reductions in our general operating budget for this upcoming fiscal year.”

Academic Affairs – the university’s largest division – realized a $2.4 million budget reduction.

“We are simply serving less students than we did four years ago and we need to reflect that in our budget process,” commented Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost Mark Pagano. “However, we are fortunate enough to have completed our academic program prioritization process this fall, so we were heading in the right direction fairly early in the process.”

Reductions in the division of academic affairs include:

• College of Education: reduce by three instructional positions

• City College: reduce by four instructional positions

• College of Allied Health Professions: reduce by two instructional positions

• College of Business: reduce by one instructional position

• College of Arts and Sciences: reduce by 6.5 instructional positions

• Center for Applied Economic Research: discontinue operation

• Extended Campus: discontinue Garfield Center operation

The division of administrative services budget was reduced by $815,000. The reduction includes a decrease in personnel from university police, financial services, human resources, facilities services, business services and Vice Chancellor’s office. In addition, the division will see a reduction in operations, maintenance and utilities.

Athletics will see the most visible reductions with the elimination of men’s and women’s tennis. The removal of these sports will mean an annual savings of roughly $230,000 and a complete withdrawal from the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference – tennis is the only sport played by MSU Billings in that conference – firmly planting the Yellowjackets in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

“The decision to eliminate tennis was extremely difficult,” said Krista Montague, MSUB athletic director. “We have had some solid teams and they are all great student-athletes but the fit isn’t right for the GNAC. We will honor the athletic scholarships to tennis players until the end of their athletic eligibility.”

Under newly appointed Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Joe Oravecz, the division will be going through an organizational restructuring that will provide seamless holistic advising for students from orientation through graduation. The division will save just over $335,000.

“We have a lot of synergy in our division and most personnel are already cross-trained to handle a multitude of duties,” said Oravecz. “Through restructuring, we will blend positions in career services, advising, admissions and student life in an effort to smooth the transition for our students.”

The university will be eliminating 9.3 percent of its instructional positions, 9.8 percent of administrative positions and 10.8 percent of classified positions. In anticipation of the budget reductions, the university intentionally held open 23 positions. Therefore, the net effect of the reductions will mean 17 employees out of the university’s approximately 500 employees will lose their positions.

MSU Billings administrators will continue to hold budget briefings. For now, MSU Billings will start its new fiscal year with a balanced budget.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 February 2015 14:07

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Newman gets grant

Students at Newman Elementary in Billings will continue to offer its Project Lead the Way curriculum rooted in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) project with support from Verizon.

Newman has been awarded a $20,000 Verizon Innovate Learning Grant. It is one of 80 public schools across the country to receive a grant this year as part of Verizon’s investment to help provide teachers with the resources they need to use technology more innovatively and effectively to engage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Newman’s Project Lead the Way will reach over 250 students.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 February 2015 14:05

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MSU hosts statewide robotics competitions

MSU News Service

BOZEMAN – In a showcase complete with costumes, friendly rivalries and a healthy dose of budding engineering brainpower, hundreds of high school students from Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah gathered at Montana State University on Friday for the FIRST Tech Challenge regional robotics championship.

The event was the first of two days of youth robotics at MSU, with hundreds of Montana middle school students set to compete in the FIRST Lego League state championship on Saturday, also at MSU’s Shroyer Gymnasium. Lego League teams build the body of their robots out of Lego blocks. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an educational organization founded by Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway scooter.

Initially started through the Montana Space Grant Consortium and now organized through the College of Engineering, MSU has been involved with the Montana FLL for 10 years. Rob Maher, professor and head of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at MSU, said it is an excellent way for MSU to reach out to K-12 students from all over Montana and encourage them to consider pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) careers when they come to college.

“We want to give the participants a good experience in hopes that they gain the confidence to become MSU students one day,” Maher said. “In fact, we now have college students graduating from MSU with engineering degrees who got their start as sixth graders in the FIRST Lego League.”

Over the two days of robotics competition, MSU will host more than 1,000 students, said Alison Banfield, a systems administrator with MSU’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and the state coordinator for First Lego League.

Banfield said the competitions offer teams a big test of skills and systems they’ve been trying to perfect since the start of the school year.

The 5025 Flyers, one of several teams from Twin Falls, Idaho, have been working on their robot for three months. The group modified last year’s design with all-terrain wheels and new programming to adapt to this year’s game format, according to 14-year-old team member AC Palmer-Handley.

“It’s great to be here and learn about robots while hanging with friends,” Palmer-Handley said.

Both the high school and middle school teams are judged for their robot design and functionality. Teams win points when their robots successfully navigate problems, such as picking up balls and depositing them in cylinders of various heights.

 The 59 middle school teams in Bozeman for FLL are also judged on how well they complete a themed project and work as a team, Banfield said.

“It’s great to see because they may have some great engineering ideas,” Banfield said. “They may not always be able to get them to work on the playing field, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t viable ideas. It could be they just didn’t have enough time to work out all of the technical aspects. It’s not just about accumulating points, it’s also about learning.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 February 2015 16:31

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Rocky Mountain College gains 2 endowments

Rocky Mountain College

Rocky Mountain College’s director of major gifts, Peter Bolenbaugh, has announced two new endowments for Rocky Mountain College. In honor of RMC’s previous director of planned giving, Obert Undem, Rocky Mountain College established the Obert M. and Virginia H. Undem Scholarship Endowment.

The endowment was set up by Rocky Mountain College to honor Obert’s dedication and nearly 20-year commitment to helping students receive an excellent education.

“Seeing a room full of people at Obert’s retirement reception and receiving numerous letters of appreciation is a testament to the hard work Obert has put into RMC and its students,” said Bolenbaugh. “It’s an honor to announce this endowment in Obert’s name, as a way to thank him for the many years he has helped people to honor their parents, family, and friends with endowed scholarships at Rocky Mountain College.”

Bolenbaugh also announced the Jim Schaff Memorial Scholarship Endowment, which was set up in honor of RMC graduate Jim Schaff. After serving four years in the Navy, Schaff attended Rocky Mountain College and graduated in 1977. During his time at RMC, Schaff not only excelled in his classes, but also received  honors for his athletic talent on the Battlin’ Bears football team. Schaff was inducted into the RMC Hall of Fame in 2006.

Schaff’s career in the oil and gas industry included serving as the vice president of land for Petroleum Development Corp. He also worked for Nova Natural Resources, Bill Barrett Corp. and Williams Energy Co.

After Schaff died unexpectedly in June 2013, Schaff’s family, friends, and business associates helped to create an endowment in Shaff’s name. This endowment will help to provide scholarships for students attending Rocky Mountain College who aspire to work in the oil and gas industry.

“This endowment was created in honor of Jim Schaff’s commitment and dedication to his family, his education and his career,” said Bolenbaugh. “Jim was just one of many oil and gas executives who received their degree from Rocky. His family, friends, and business partners wanted to help keep Jim’s legacy alive on the RMC campus and provide the opportunity for success to other students interested in the oil and gas industry.”

Bolenbaugh, who joined Rocky Mountain College as director of major gifts in May 2014, said he hopes that these and the many other endowments at Rocky Mountain College will continue to grow, as approximately 99 percent of students at RMC receive some type of financial assistance.

“Many people may not be aware of the significant impact these scholarships can have in a student’s life,” said Bolenbaugh. “One of my goals is to help connect donors with the students they are supporting.”

Those who are interested in contributing to RMC endowments can contact Peter Bolenbaugh at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 657-1106.

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 January 2015 15:35

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