The George M. Dennison Civic Engagement Scholarship honors the legacy of students at MTCC affiliate campuses who have volunteered significant time, energy, and resources – while pursuing a degree or certificate – to projects that make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. Half of the funds for each $1000 scholarship have been donated in memory of George M. Dennison by Jane Dennison and their sons, Rick and Robert Dennison, and their families.
10 Students Awarded $1,000 in George M. Dennison Civic Engagement Scholarships
2/14/2023 | 5 mins read
Montana Campus Compact, a network of higher education institutions committed to promoting civic and community engagement, is proud to announce the 2023 George M. Dennison Civic Engagement Scholarship recipients.
The scholarship program, created in honor of the late George M. Dennison, aims to encourage students to become active and responsible citizens through community service and leadership. Dennison was president of the University of Montana (1990-2010) and a co-founder of the Montana Campus Compact.
This year, ten students were awarded $1,000 scholarships in recognition of their outstanding contributions to their communities. The recipients were selected based on their dedication to serving others, leadership qualities, and potential to impact their communities positively.
“We are thrilled to be able to support these talented and driven students as they continue to make a difference in their communities,” said Josh Vanek, Executive Director of Montana Campus Compact. “The George M. Dennison Civic Engagement Scholarships embody the spirit of civic engagement, and we are proud to be a part of helping these students achieve their goals.”
Bridgette Shields, Aaniiih Nakoda College
“My vision for my community begins with pursuing higher education. Statistically, Fort Belknap is stricken with poverty, food insecurity, lack of resources regarding addiction and mental health, and the highest teen/young adult suicide rate in Montana. I make a point to become familiar with community members at every event to better understand the hardships the tribe faces. Outsourcing mental health professionals through telemedicine have become the norm here. Therapy is only available through zoom calls, this has resulted in a decline in members seeking professional help for mental health and substance-related issues. My goal is to come home to Fort Belknap after obtaining a master’s in psychology. It has been years since an Indigenous therapist has practiced here. I would like to become an asset to my community.”
Brandi Harwood, Blackfeet Community College
“My vision for the community is that if we continue to help each other out, we will always be good. The more we have each other’s back, the better we will be. The more good we put out there, the more good we will get out of it. I will always encourage community engagement among my peers because it does nothing but good for our people and us. I will never say no to community service and will always get out and help out in any way possible. I love community service and the good karma that comes with it.”
Shelby Smith, Montana State University
“My dreams for the future are filled with health, family, laughter, and sunshine. I will consider my life successful if I know I do my best to help people. I want a fulfilling career as a registered dietitian, helping people fuel their bodies to lead healthy lives. I dream that the human population will become healthier over the next 20 years. It scares me to know that heart disease, the number one cause of death in the U.S. and the world, is also the fastest-growing cause of death.” However, before chronic diseases need to be addressed, food insecurity needs to be the top priority. With millions experiencing food insecurity in the US alone, it is clear there is a more pressing issue. I will work diligently, doing my part, even as an undergraduate student here in Bozeman, Montana, to make that happen.
Melia Swirsky, Montana State University
“I envision a community that coexists with nature and respects one another’s unique opinions. The increasing and deepening political divide is limiting societal advancement. As a society, we need to learn how to listen to one another again respectfully. My current role in Backcountry Squatters allows me to educate and learn about diverse opinions and use the club as a catalyst for social change. Furthermore, to promote coexistence with nature, it is crucial we take more sustainable actions. Backcountry Squatters has a community following that allows us to connect with agencies for change, such as Protect Our Winters. Furthermore, getting more people outside through the club promotes stronger respect and connection with nature. My engagement with the club directly promotes coexistence with nature and respecting others.”
Nicholas Verlanic, Montana Technological University
“I hope our community and world become more generous and kinder. My community engagement helps me to model this for those younger than me. It also provides me with opportunities to have mentors of my own–who have also been volunteering and connecting. While helping others feel inspired and greatly valued, I have felt much more myself. There is a definite sense of meaning and purpose when helping others, especially those who have been dealt a rough set of cards in this life. To see them rising above their obstacles and being resilient has motivated me to work toward doing the same–especially when faced with heartache or misfortune, which seems to be an inevitable part of this life.”
Shaylie Pierson, Montana State University Billings
“I want to make a difference in the healthcare field and make a commitment to improving the imaging environment for all patients and especially those with disabilities. Medical personnel need to gauge a patients’ challenges and concerns proactively and provide enough support for every patient to have the same access to care and provide adaptations to accommodate all patients.”
Freeman Voyles, Montana State University-Northern
“Our world is so unkind to those that make us uncomfortable. The pregnant student, the homeless man, the co-worker with an accent, and the minorities incarcerated. These people, for whatever reason, test our patience and our respect for them as human beings. Why do we cringe when a homeless man uses the library bathroom, wince when a woman brings her baby to class, or squirm when our co-worker tries explaining herself in the best English she can muster? Why do we stay silent when an innocent man is executed? Because these people are outcasts, they are not, what we consider, the fundamental members of society. By bringing these people to the forefront of our culture, we can better serve them and reintegrate them into society & the workforce, connecting them with resources by which they will succeed and individuals who are excited to see them prosper.”
Samantha McNair, Salish Kootenai College
“My vision for my community would be to see it not struggle anymore. The hardships that are faced here on the reservation seem more severe than anywhere else because of how tight-knit these communities are. I hope to see a future where children don’t have to worry about school shootings, hunger, or bullying. I see these things happening by getting everyone involved in community service projects. With my leadership skills, I will be able to organize these activities that would benefit the community. We also need more treatment centers and addiction services to get the community together we need not have to worry about substance dependency.”
Maria Kouidi, University of Montana
“BIPOC and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by pollution, which poses a severe threat to their health and well-being. As an Environmental Studies major, a Climate Change Studies minor, and an immigrant from a low-income family, I want to help these communities by addressing the exploitation of their lands and neighborhoods. These communities are not visible to the public eye since the injustices are usually swept under the rug, so I would like to raise awareness by directly supporting and mitigating the environmental injustices happening to these marginalized communities. Through my current community engagement, I hope to continue to broaden my world perspective and educate myself on BIPOC social issues and injustices that are happening on an international level. I want to stop the corporations that continuously take advantage of these communities.”
John Mears, University of Montana Western
“I want to make my community/world a better place by spreading happiness and an excellent work ethic. At every community engagement I have been to, I work my hardest to get everything ready to go beforehand and clean up afterward. Working hard during these events shows the other workers and people present that working hard is a good attribute to have in life. I have seen happiness spread to other people if just one person starts off happy. If I can be that one person in all situations and positively affect, other moods is a huge goal of mine, especially in times when sadness is a big problem in the world.”
For those interested in supporting the George M. Dennison Civic Engagement Scholarship, donations can be made online at: supportum.org/give
In the Designation Choice field, please select “Other” and add the words “George M. Dennison Civic Engagement Scholarship” in the comments field.
These funds are housed with the University of Montana Foundation and serve all institutions and students in the Montana Campus Compact statewide network