UM Employee-Student Uses Internship to ‘Connect Montana’

Julie Heaton, director of UM’s Financial Education Program, is working toward a Master of Public Administration in UM’s Baucus Institute of Public Administration and Policy. She is sharpening her skills this year serving as an intern for the Montana World Affairs Council.

MISSOULA – Like many University of Montana employees, Julie Heaton considers lifelong learning critical to her success.

For the past year, in addition to serving as director of UM’s highly successful Financial Education Program, she’s been enrolled as a graduate student working toward a Master of Public Administration in UM’s Baucus Institute of Public Administration and Policy. And, this summer, she is sharpening her interest in global and societal issues – notably those surrounding inequality – working as an intern for the Montana World Affairs Council, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering global awareness in Montana classrooms and communities.

“I taught in China and did a lot of study abroad experiences,” Heaton said. “I think when we learn about other countries and cultures we create a powerful educational tool for addressing common issues like inequality.”

Heaton’s internship is focused on promoting and organizing the council’s webcast called “Connect Montana”. The webcast, which started in spring 2020, enlists speakers from across the world to discuss currents affairs such as immigration, international policy, climate change and the U.S. political landscape.

The Montana World Affairs Council was founded in 2000 by retired Ambassador Mark Johnson, a fourth-generation Montanan from Great Falls. In the past 20 years it has hosted or co-sponsored hundreds of community and school programs across the state and the world.

For her part, Heaton has taken on myriad tasks to extend the outreach of ‘Connect Montana,” including organizing speakers and creating promotional campaigns to connect people of all ages and communities to the webcast. To foster two-way conversations with listeners, she developed audience surveys and initiated a Facebook live series called “The Take Away” that follows and expands on the webcast’s themes. UM students and staff participate in each episode.

“We are looking to create a deeper engagement beyond our speakers,” said Heaton, adding that she established a suggested reading list for listeners who want to delve deeper into the subjects highlighted on “Connect Montana.”

Chris Hyslop, executive director of the council, credits Heaton for the four-fold growth in the webcast audience, noting that she never flinched at taking on the task of building the webcast’s presence.

“I asked Julie to look at best practices for a webcast like ours and she was the engine behind step one to step 10,” Hyslop said. Heaton, he adds, will be taking her skills this summer to do all the “spade work” for next fall’s webcast editions.

Heaton is one of approximately 92 students enrolled in UM’s MPA program, which is the only accredited MPA program in Montana. Earlier this year, it was ranked fourth nationally out of the Best 25 Masters in Public Administration Schools.

Sara Rinfret, Department of Public Administration and Policy professor and associate dean, calls Heaton one of the “best and brightest” in the program.

“Her work with the World Affairs Council this year has demonstrated how she can translate theory to practice and help our communities excel,” Rinfret said.

Heaton has one more year to go in the MPA program and is certain she will draw from her experiences working for the council. Heaton is one 160 UM employees who take advantage of a discount on academic coursework for professional mobility.

“The skillsets I’ve learned will traverse many fields,” Heaton said. “What I am learning can be applied whether I am working on women’s empowerment issues or with my work at UM making college financially accessible to students. The council is an incredible organization, and this has been an incredible experience.”


Contact: Andi Armstrong, director of marketing and communications, UM Alexander Blewett III School of Law, 406-243-6509,