UM Named Country’s #1 School for Service a Second Time

A first-year student participates in UM’s Big Sky Experience, helping to clean the grounds of the Beehive Homes, an assisted living facility in Missoula. (UM photo by Tommy Martino.) 

MISSOULA – The University of Montana once again topped a national list ranking 1,487 four-year colleges and universities on their overall contribution to the public good.

For the second year in a row, Washington Monthly, a magazine of U.S. politics and government based in Washington, D.C., placed UM at the top of their “public service” ranking. (On the right-hand column, hover and click the arrow next to “Service rank” for rankings).

In the “service” category, UM ranked above many of the nation’s prestigious private and public institutions, including the University of Notre Dame, George Washington University, Duke University, the University of Chicago and many more.

The periodical’s 2023 College Rankings List evaluate four-year institutions across three categories: social mobility, research and promoting public service.

Since 2005, Washington Monthly has developed a methodology and evaluation of American university performance that provides an alternative to Forbes and U.S. World News and Report. 

UM President Seth Bodnar said the Washington Monthly ranking again formally identifies UM’s cornerstone culture.

“Traditional rankings often fail to dive into the big idea of what a college or university is supposed to do,” Bodnar said, “which is to provide and deliver on inclusive prosperity, social mobility and producing leaders who positively impact our collective communities. I join UM students, our staff and faculty in celebrating this humbling accolade, because it means we’re doing something right.”

Bodnar added that the Washington Monthly ranking is uniquely important, because it evaluates national data on college’s performance across a range of measures, including affordability, access, social mobility and volunteerism. He said many rankings only promote an idea of prestige, instead of recognizing institutions that make significant contributions through research, social mobility and service. 

“The Washington Monthly ranking stands alone in that it reflects an evaluation of American higher education that should be grounded in an ethos,” Bodnar said. “At UM, we are deeply tied to our place, community and one another, and those are the qualities our students take with them into their careers and lives.”

The Washington Monthly 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.

Grizzlies serve the wider public in innumerable ways – many of which are embedded within academic programs that include service learning, volunteer hours or a community project.

Additionally, UM students are actively involved in UM’s Peace Corps Prep Program, in UM’s Military and Veterans Services and within UM’s dedicated programs in global service and volunteerism like the W.A. Franke Global Leadership Initiative.

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 and legal services.

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, 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 woven into the community,” said Devin Carpenter, UM director of New Student Success. “The takeaway for students is an awakening and understanding of what we do here and why it matters.”


Contact: Dave Kuntz, UM strategic communications director, 406-243-5659,