UM Student a Finalist for Prestigious Fellowship as Graduation Looms

Lucy Portman, a UM master's student prepares for graduation.

MISSOULA – As graduation draws near, University of Montana master’s student Lucy Portman finds herself busier than ever – and in one of the best ways she never expected.

Out of over 10,000 individuals from around the world, Portman is one of 850 finalists for the prestigious Presidential Management Fellows program.

According to Portman, the PMF “is an opportunity through the federal government for the development of leaders who are just graduating with advanced degrees.”

The PMF rewards its finalists with more than just recognition.

“Finalists apply for two-year fellowship positions that not only fast-track you to a federal agency, but provide hands-on training and rotational assignments for a career in public service,” Portman said.

Originally from Cincinnati, Portman spent many summers in Montana with her family, which sparked her love for the environment that has only burned brighter with time, leading to her interest in conservation.

After graduating from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, where she received her undergraduate degree in biology with a minor in chemistry after doing her thesis in East Africa, Portman spent some time working abroad in Australia conducting wildlife research.

In Australia, Portman’s interests began to turn from the “natural” side of conservation to the human dimensions of natural resource conservation.

This newfound interest in people drew her to take a position with the National Park Service in Seattle as an Outdoor Recreation Planning Fellow, where she fell in love with public service.

Public service drove Portman to UM to receive her Master of Science in environmental studies degree.

During her time at UM, Portman did more than work toward her degree. Portman also completed the Natural Resource Conflict Resolution Certificate under the revered tutelage of the program’s director, Professor Shawn Johnson.

In addition, Portman completed a fellowship with the National Forest Foundation.

Portman’s appreciation for her advisers, professors and peers at UM runs deep. She noted that UM’s small-sized program makes it unique.

“UM is such a supportive place, especially the students,” Portman added. “It’s just great to have such support from your peers.”

As she prepares to walk across her second graduation stage, Portman looks forward to the opportunities with the National Forest Service and National Park Service thanks to her finalist status with the PMF. Because of students like Portman, UM recently was named America’s No. 1 university for community and national service.

When asked for any words of advice to those who aim to follow in her footsteps, she said, “find balance and say ‘yes’ to different professional opportunities.”