Michael Rohd Joins University of Montana to Lead New Co-Lab

MISSOULA – The University of Montana welcomes Michael Rohd as director of the new Co-Lab for Civic Imagination (CCI), focusing on building collaboration between campus, local, regional and national partners.

Rohd also will join the UM faculty in the College of Health and the College of the Arts and Media, serving in a collaborative role that will prioritize cross-discipline coordination.

“I feel deeply grateful and excited to join UM at this moment under the leadership of President Bodnar and Provost Mahdavi,” said Rohd. “I have already had the opportunity to meet campus faculty and staff, and am overwhelmed by the talent, thoughtfulness and generosity of my new colleagues. I believe in the power of arts, culture, design and heritage to help us build both meaningful academic journeys for students across sectors and disciplines, and impactful opportunities for innovative problem-solving and coalition building across communities and regions. I recognize how much I have to learn about Montana, about the 12 sovereign Tribal Nations on this land and about the University itself. I look forward to listening and learning as I get to work helping build and deepen connections between the campus and the community, and between communities across the state and region.”

In one of her first hires, Provost Dr. Pardis Mahdavi has brought to UM an artist and community dialogue designer with a national record of cross-sectoral work and thought leadership. For 30 years, Rohd’s professional focus has been on civic imagination, defined as the capacity amidst residents and local leaders to collectively and creatively envision a just, healthy and equitable futures for everyone. CCI will support the re-imagining of institutional and systemic practices inside and outside higher education through collaborations rooted in cultural work within sectors such as public health, education, sustainability, workforce development, community development and racial equity.

“I am very excited to have Michael join UM,” said Mahdavi. “He brings with him decades of valuable experience and his innovative approach to building collaboration across campus and beyond is critical to our mission. I am proud to support the work of the CCI as this new co-lab builds important bridges that will serve our students, our state and our society.”

Prior to joining UM. Rohd co-founded Sojourn Theatre in Portland, Oregon in 2000 and spent a decade building relationships and projects in the Pacific Northwest. In 2007, he joined the faculty of Northwestern University in Chicago and then five years later co-founded the Center for Performance and Civic Practice, a national resource for arts/municipal partnership projects. Rohd was most recently an institute professor at Arizona State University where he worked with the leadership team being assembled there with a mission of disrupting and innovating the ways arts and design are perceived and deployed in community settings beyond the arts sector.

While there, he helped launch the Projecting All Voices and Arizona Creative Communities Initiatives, collaborated with the ASU Art Museum and Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, helped build new campus programming around sexual assault prevention, and was deployed as a process designer and facilitator across the campus to help address issues of conflict resolution and leadership development.

He frequently serves as an advisor, coach, curator and thought partner with collaborators around the country on projects at the intersection of arts, community development and local government with a focus on capacity-building for cross-sector, public good collaborations. Recent partners include the State of Kansas, Georgetown University, American Library Association, National League of Cities, ArtPlace America, Chicago’s Goodman Theater, United Way, Cook Inlet Housing Authority in Alaska and the City of Chicago.

He serves as the civic collaborations director for One Nation/One Project, a national arts, municipality, public health initiative, culminating in summer 2024 with massive participatory arts and public health spectacles in 18 U.S. cities and towns, and as co-designer/co-lead on a collaboration with American Library Association that is helping develop Civic Imagination Station partnerships at libraries around the U.S. as part of a grant-supported pilot cohort.


Contact: Dave Kuntz, director of strategic communications, 406-243-5659, dave.kuntz@umontana.edu.