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New Grant Will Engage Students in Community Place-Making around the Bozeman ‘M’

Course-based collaboration will connect MSU students with trail users, local history, indigenous perspectives, and ecological consideration at Bozeman’s most popular trail.

Students will explore various questions related to the history, function, and public perceptions about the ‘M,’ a marker and popular mountain trail near Bozeman, MT, with the support of an MSU Office of Research and Economic Development grant. The outcomes will inform a 2022 MSU initiative to renovate the M.

WTI’s Community-engaged and Transformational Scholarship (CATS) program will assist the project by facilitating course-based collaborations. Students will investigate trail user perspectives, the history of student involvement with the M, wayfinding and signage at the site, indigenous perspectives and place names, and ecological conservation concerns, such as weed suppression, soil erosion, and preservation of native plants. WTI’s Susan Gallagher leads the CATS program and will coordinate student involvement. She will also conduct focus groups to assess how engagement in the project affected students’ sense of place within MSU and Bozeman, and how/if the M is a symbol of student impact on the local community. The project is led by Jodi Allison-Bunnell from the MSU Library, who also leads the History and Culture Team for the M redesign project. Other contributors include faculty from Earth Sciences—Geography, History/Doig Center, Architecture, Native American Studies, Land Resources and Environmental Sciences—and the Honors College.