Monica Lomahukluh explores a forest that’s under pressure from climate change in Vietnam. She and other students visited the country as part of a UM study abroad course. (Photo by Kevin Radley)
When Monica Lomahukluh was chosen for a recent UM study abroad course in Vietnam, she found herself thinking about cleaning up that country’s drinking water and garbage, which was slightly off topic from the course subject.
Lomahukluh, a junior who majors in resource conservation and minors in restoration ecology at the College of Forestry and Conservation, was in Vietnam to study climate change. It was a new topic for her, she says, but with the knowledge provided by her UM education, she couldn’t help trying to think of solutions when she saw the problems.
With limited travel experience, Lomahukluh was one of nine students – six undergraduates and three graduate level – who were educated for the Global Century when they participated in UM’s inaugural study abroad course at Vietnam’s Can Tho University. The experience, a program of UM’s Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center, changed her way of thinking and living.
“I came back to the U.S. with a new perspective on the world,” she says. “Climate change is a slow process, but even the smallest change has instrumental effects on the ecosystem, people and culture. I am more inclined to reduce my carbon footprint now, as well as eat locally.”
The 21-year-old registered Hopi Indian is the first in her immediate family to attend college. Born in Tuba City, Ariz., she was adopted at age 3 by her aunt and uncle, who raised her in Helena. Lomahukluh says she’s worked since she was 16 to pay for college, supplementing loans, tribal scholarships and the state’s Native American tuition waiver.
Since her freshman year, she also has worked in research labs of professors within her major, boosting her knowledge beyond measure.
During her freshman year she worked with then-UM Professor Paul Alaback to help create deer habitat in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. Now she’s employed in Assistant Professor Cara Nelson’s lab, where she helps synthesize data on work to restore vegetation at the Milltown Dam removal site. She knows how lucky she’s been to work on research with her professors.
“It’s gotten me really far so far,” she says.
Rachel Smith, the Native American Natural Resource Program director who helped shepherd Lomahukluh along, says the UM junior is always up for trying something new.
“Monica is an exemplary student with such an enthusiastic attitude toward engaging in new experiences,” Smith says. “Her passion for learning and willingness to try new things has afforded her numerous opportunities to expand her horizons and gain employment experience in her field of study.”
As far as careers go, Lomahukluh wouldn’t mind following in the tracks of her parents and grandparents, who all worked for the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service.
“I would like to work for the government in some way as long as it puts me outside rather than in a cubical,” she says. “I’m an outdoorsy girl.”
In the meantime, Lomahukluh may join AmeriCorps, a service organization that places its workers across the country. However, the Vietnam experience has given Lomahukluh the travel bug, and she’s now considering joining the Peace Corps when she graduates from the University next year. It’s a big decision, but she’s confident she’ll be ready for international service work, armed with her UM education.
Who knows? She may even end up in Vietnam, trying to solve a village’s garbage and drinking water problems.
Lomahukluh is exactly the kind of student the University pledges to educate – one who will make a difference in the world. She’s worked in the research labs of her chosen field, and she took another giant step into the world with her study abroad trip to Vietnam.
The University promotes educational experiences filled with discovery for students, preparing them to become engaged citizens in an interconnected world to enhance economic, cultural and social change.
UM also has tailored its two-year educational programs to meet regional, national and global needs with a curriculum that provides practical experience, as well as coursework that ensures students can succeed in a college environment. The institution will use labor statistics to align its two-year programs and graduate placement.
“We are currently meeting regional needs, but our vision is to provide for people to compete for 21st century-based knowledge jobs,” says Barry Good, dean of UM’s College of Technology.
Good says employers are beginning to expect students to adapt to international rules.
“We’re thinking of opening an exchange program at COT to give students exposure to a global perspective because they will be exposed to that when they go into the job market,” he says. COT is working with the UM International Programs on such a venture.
Enrollment, classroom progression, training rates and transfer rates to four-year institutions will define success. The University also will develop a conceptual framework for undergraduates, allowing them to contemplate their overall education and focus on the big disciplinary questions and grand challenges faced by global society.
“Just as our curriculum is multidisciplined, collectively these experiences help our students understand the world in greater depth far beyond the four walls of any single classroom,” says Roberta Evans, dean of UM’s Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences.
UM’s Career Services, Internship Services and study abroad programs will offer students opportunities to gain experience relevant to their academic interests. To measure success, campus will evaluate participation in co-curricular, study abroad and service-learning activities, as well as student involvement related to global issues.
For graduate students, the University will capitalize on its unique location and intellectual and cultural resources to develop interdisciplinary collaboration and inspired scholarship. Data related to number of programs, enrollment, enhanced degrees awarded and graduate research will indicate progress.
All this is geared to introduce students such as Lomahukluh to the broader world that awaits.
Lomahukluh smiles aboard a covered boat on her way to visit a floating Vietnamese market. (Photo by Kevin Radley)
Lomahukluh catches up on her studies amid the greenery of UM’s University Center.