UM Honors College Joins Network to Train Students for Food, Climate, Ag Careers

A picture of Tim Nichols
Davidson Honors College Dean Tim Nichols will lead UM’s involvement with a project to train students for leadership roles in the fields of food, agriculture, natural sciences and human sciences.  

MISSOULA – The Davidson Honors College at the University of Montana recently joined a national collaborative to train students for leadership roles in the FANH fields of food, agriculture, natural sciences and human sciences.  

Fourteen universities are part of the three-year collaborative project, “The Justice Challenge: Engaging Students in the Future of Food, Climate and Sustainable Agriculture.” The project aims to create diverse, well-prepared graduates in FANH disciplines who are ready to tackle complex challenges.

“Graduates of the program will enter the workforce with innovative skillsets and mindsets essential for today’s world,” said Tim Nichols, the DCH dean. “As a result of these learning opportunities, our honors graduates will prepare to address the world’s greatest challenges with system approaches that are both informed and compassionate.”

The collaborative was funded by a $750,000 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. UM will partner with initiative host institutions South Dakota State University, Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M University and Virginia Tech.

The project is expected to bring together more than 500 students from across the country. They will leverage the nimble and innovative structure of a university honors education to participate in the Grand Challenge Scholars Institute. Every year, the institute will address a USDA priority theme, such as food justice, climate justice and sustainable agriculture.

Nichols said each institute will kick off with a colloquium that introduces students to the theme and to one another. Then students will participate in a signature experience of their choice, such as a field experience or design challenge. The institute will conclude with a conference to showcase student work and enhance networks between students and leading FANH experts.

A Fellow of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Nichols previously directed two other USDA grants titled “Honors in Agriculture” and “Meeting Grand Challenges” while working at South Dakota State. He said this new national collaboration will build upon and expand those efforts.

Open to all majors, DHC offers an enhanced honors education to a community of student scholars within the University, with limited class sizes and mentoring for scholarships, internships and study abroad opportunities.

Nichols said the Grand Challenge Scholars Institutes will build upon the DHC’s interdisciplinary curriculum, as well as its climate change studies and QUEST programs, which engage students in exploring and finding solutions to important contemporary issues – both locally and globally.


Contact: Tim Nichols, UM Davidson Honors College dean, 406-243-2534,