MISSOULA – The University of Montana has been named the top university in the country for service to its community and the country.
The report comes from Washington Monthly, a magazine of U.S. politics and government based in Washington, D.C., which also ranks four-year American colleges and universities as an alternative to U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings.
The publication lists UM as the No. 1 institution in the country for its “highest concentration of community and national service.” (On the right-hand column, hover and click the arrow next to “Service rank” for rankings).
The top ranking reflects UM’s deep commitment to civic service, a value that is embedded within UM’s institutional mission and broader public engagement.
The magazine ranks universities based on their contribution to the public good in three broad categories: social mobility, research and promoting public service.
In the “service” category, UM ranked above many of the nation’s prestigious private and public institutions, including George Washington University, University of Notre Dame, Duke University, Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University and many more.
UM President Seth Bodnar said the Washington Monthly ranking formally identifies UM’s cornerstone pillar and educational outcome.
“This ranking confirms what is in the very fabric of a UM education: that our students and alumni understand the value of giving back,” he said. “I can’t think of more critical gift to the world than students who are civically minded and engaged in their communities.”
Bodnar said Grizzlies serve the wider public in innumerable ways – many of which are embedded within an academic program that includes service learning, volunteer hours or a community project.
The ranking determined the service score by measuring each college’s performance across a range of measures, including AmeriCorps and Peace Corps, military service and federal work-study grant funding spent on community service projects.
The ranking methodology also included data related to student voter registration; voter activity; the number of degrees awarded in health, education and social work; and a college’s rate of producing leaders in socially valuable fields.
Since its earliest days, UM has reflected a deep commitment to public service and has developed academic, career and co-curricular programs that infuse a UM education with volunteer and civic opportunities.
UM students work and study diverse areas that mirror Montana’s greatest public needs. These include youth-in-crisis, public education, food insecurity, addiction studies, mental health counseling, natural resource nonprofit work, racial equity, legal services and much, much more.
For many students, their first interaction as a Grizzly includes an experience within the community. UM’s New Student Orientation includes the Big Sky Experience, where students work alongside community partners including the Missoula Food Bank and Community Center and other nonprofits, including Free Cycles Missoula and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.
“The point of the Big Sky Experience is to showcase to new students that a UM education is part of the community,” said Devin Carpenter, director of New Student Success. “The takeaway for students when they’re learning about service opportunities, is an awakening and understanding of what we do here and why it matters. It feels like a special and unique tradition and one that is long held.”
Bodnar said the ranking cements UM's legacy as an institution that privileges service.
“The kind of work our students are drawn to and the careers they choose are deeply informed by UM’s ethos of service,” Bodnar said. “A life of impact, alongside an understanding that we have a greater calling to something bigger than ourselves, is truly the gift of education.”
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