2021 Big Sky Experience Sites

We are proud to announce the 2021 Big Sky Experience Sites!  Thank you to each of our partners, both new and returning.  We cannot run this program without your support, time, and energy.  

All students participating in New Student Orientation will be assigned to a Big Sky Experience site on a first-come, first-served basis when they check-in for New Student Orientation on Monday, Aug. 23 between 2 - 6 p.m. 

Each site has a particular capacity, and once slots are filled the site will be closed.  You are not guaranteed a spot at any particular site, but we will do our best to accommodate your preferences.  Please take a look at the list of sites and come with a few ideas of the sites you would prefer to help expedite the check-in process.

Each site has different accessibility concerns, so please take note of certain activities that may not be best suited for you.  If you are a student with a disability and wish to request reasonable accommodations for an orientation session, contact Devin Carpenter at orientation@mso.umt.edu to discuss the specific modifications. Please be advised, we may request that you work with the Office for Disability Equity located in Lommasson Center 154 in order to coordinate your reasonable modifications. For more information, visit the Office for Disability Equity website at www.umt.edu/disability.

Business and Entrepreneurship


Missoula Paddleheads Logo





Blackstone LaunchPad Logo






 Giggle Box Logo



 Grizzly Athletics Logo


Southgate Mall Logo




Downtown Missoula Partnership Logo

Big Sky Baseball, LLC

We will introduce the Missoula PaddleHeads Professional Baseball franchise to the group as a sports business, an entertainment business, and a community partner. We will touch on the challenges of COVID and the decisions we made to continue providing a safe place for the community to gather and the effects our decisions have had on 2021. We will share our Core Values, our Service Model, and the employee onboarding program. The Director of Entertainment will engage them in fun, team-building exercises while explaining the importance of building a good product from the ground up. We will talk about the challenges of staying true to our mission while sharing the business of baseball.

Blackstone LaunchPad Experience

This Experience is open to all majors and meant to stretch students' minds as they focus on a real-world topic—refugees in Montana. During this experience, students will team up and use their own personal experiences as well as problem-solving skills, and insights from mentors and community representatives to develop solutions and recommendations for how refugees in Missoula can enhance their current situations by building community relationships and exploring their economic opportunities. Through this experience, students will learn more about the refugees joining our communities, network with local community members and their fellow students, and even hear from a keynote speaker who is actually tackling this problem in real-time. Upon completion, students should experience an “a-ha” moment when recognizing that refugees are experiencing a more acute version of the students’ own arrival in Missoula, and most importantly, they will feel energized to build relationships and excited to explore the opportunities presented by their college career! This site encourages students to bring their own laptops or tablet.

Giggle Box - Southgate Mall

Students attending the Giggle Box experience will immerse themselves in a creative world of expression through exploration. On the first day, students will have an extended tour of the museum acclimating themselves to artistic expression through installation and entrepreneurship. The museum will allow students to slow down, create, express, take photos, and question the norms of standard creativity in the world around us. To follow the tour, we will have a Q&A about creation, community involvement, and grassroots entrepreneurship.

Grizzly Athletics

Students will learn all about Grizzly athletics, our traditions, and special events that students can participate in.  They will talk with some coaches and current UM athletes and then assist in the development of the Zoo Crew, our student fan group for Grizzly Athletics.

Southgate Mall

Students will learn about the general retail/mall world, as well as the creativity and planning it takes to lease, market, and operate a thriving regional shopping center. Exercises will include: "Fill the Property" - students in groups are given a blank mall map and must fill each retail space and "Invent a Store" - students in small groups must brainstorm a new retail concept and present it to the class. Students will hear from our General Manager and Marketing Director, as well as several dynamic entrepreneurial mall tenants.

Meet Missoula Downtown

This is an emersion into the Missoula Downtown Experience. Students will learn about the rich history as well as tour and sample many of downtown's businesses and culture. Activities include going on the underground tours, scavenger hunt, behind the scene look at the prep for the River City Roots Festival, meeting the movers and shakers of downtown, and of course, getting some cool swag. We hope that these students will become downtown ambassadors of a sort, to help others on campus navigate and feel comfortable spending time there.  This site will require extensive walking outside, and the underground tours may be inaccessible to a wheelchair.

Communication and Artistic Expression



 The Garage Logo




Big Sky Documentary Film Festival Logo



 Grizzly Marching Band Logo


 Progress Flag Griz Paw


University Center Logo




 University Center Logo




  Fabric squares drying in the sun



Haunted House show playbill

Art and Community-Building

Students will gain insight into the cultural life of Missoula, by getting to know three projects in the cultural sector that illustrate different forms of community building through art. One is a best practice example of community building that started more than 25 years ago, another is a public institution that was just renovated to springboard into the future, and the third is a temporary project currently underway. The students will meet the people behind each project, get a look behind the scenes, and will take part in the making of a participatory piece of art. This site will require extensive walking on one day, and students are encouraged to wear clothes they are comfortable making art in.

Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

The Big Sky Documentary Film Institute will partner with the College of the Arts and Media to deliver a doc filmmaking workshop as part of the BSE. BSDFF will show and tell about the impact of documentary film and help incoming students understand their point of view is a powerful change agent. We will then engage professors in Journalism and Media Arts to lead students in making documentary short films, with the other Big Sky Experiences being the subject matter.  This site will expect students to carry and operate video equipment and be outside for the majority of the experience.

Grizzly Marching Band

Those students who are joining the Grizzly Marching Band this fall will be placed into this Big Sky Experience site automatically.  You will follow a special schedule and will be dismissed from GMB practice to join certain orientation sessions.  


KBGA College Radio

Students will begin the DJ training process with studio and on-air rules. We will continue discussing solid interview tips and guidelines and ultimately create a simple Podcast in the studio.


The Lambda Alliance

Students will participate in a UM Allies Training, which includes a discussion of gender and sexuality.  Participants will learn to communicate their identities, as well as have an open and fun discussion of gender and expression. The second day will be an art project to help express individual identities, which will then be displayed in the Branch Center on campus.

UM History and Traditions - Pawsitive Prints

Students will first learn about the history and traditions of the University of Montana, and test their skills through a trivia game led by the UM Advocates.  Next, students will engage in an exercise centered around inspiration, and the things that bring motivation to people. They will design and present their own inspirational Griz paw, which will be commemorated by painting it on the sidewalk on campus for all to enjoy for years to come.  

UM History and Traditions - Painting the M

Students will first learn about the history and traditions of the University of Montana, and test their skills through a trivia game led by the UM Advocates.  Next students will hike Mt. Sentinel, or the "M Trail" as we call it, and assist UM staff in paining the iconic M for all to see.  This site will require moderate hiking and extensive time spent outdoors painting.

UM Theatre and Dance - Costume Shop

Students will be offered a general overview of the functions and activities that take place in the Costume Shop. Students will create a community art project such as pride flags and welcome banners. They will engage in the basics of measuring and cutting, fabric painting, sun printing, and sewing. No experience is necessary.


UM Theatre and Dance - Scene Shop

The Theatre and Dance Scene Shop will host students for a general overview of our facilities and what we do to bring a Theatrical Production to the Stage. Students will get hands-on experience helping to build one of the sections of our fall HAUNTED HOUSE design installation. No shop experience is necessary.  This site will be working with plaster and paint and will require standing and kneeling.

Environment and Sustainability


Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Logo



Campus Dining Logo





 Experiential Learning and Career Success Logo








Garden City Harvest Logo






Moon Randolph Homestead Logo





National Museum of Forest Service History Logo





 Wilderness Institute Logo







  Wild Montana Lofo






UM Sustainability Logo

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

Students will spend the afternoon learning how to fly fish on the Clark Fork River (confluence of the Blackfoot at the Clark Fork). Rods and flies will be provided. The following day, students will hike and pack out trash along the way learning the importance of stewardship of our public lands.  This site will be hiking on uneven terrain that is not accessible by a wheelchair and will be outside for the entirety of the experience.

Campus Dining - Bountiful Garden Experience

Students will be treated to an extraordinary event celebrating Campus Dining's sustainability programs. They will enjoy creating their own pizza in the R&R pizza oven, harvesting produce from the Iron Griz Garden, meeting the Campus Dining ducks, and learning more about our Farm-To-College program.  This site will be in a garden on uneven terrain with limited wheelchair accessibility and will be outside for a significant portion of the experience.

Experiential Learning and Career Success

Students will learn about non-profits in Missoula and about ways they can get involved. On the first day, students will be broken up into small groups and each will go to one of three non-profits: Ecology Project International, Jeanette Rankin Peace Center, or the UM Food Pantry. The following day, the whole group will go to Orchard Farms to work on the farm for a couple of hours to see hands-on what experiential learning entails.  This site will be outside in a garden on uneven terrain that is not accessible by a wheelchair the second day.

Freshman Wilderness Experience

All students participating in the pre-orientation Freshman Wilderness Experience will be pre-assigned to this site, which will serve as an on-campus extension of the wilderness trips.  Students will enjoy some fun time together before participating in wilderness safety and first aid training workshops.

Garden City Harvest

Our Big Sky Experience will include two days at two different, Garden City Harvest farms. Participants will be performing a variety of farming tasks which might include weeding, planting, harvesting, watering, and moving farm equipment. This is a great opportunity to dig into the dirt, meet local farmers, and be a part of an organization that impacts over 20,000 community members every year. The first day will be located at the scenic PEAS Farm up in the rattlesnake. The second day will be located at our River Road Farmstead, which is home to the River Road neighborhood farm, main office, community barn, and the River Road community gardens.  This site is on a farm on uneven terrain that is not accessible by a wheelchair. Students will be outside for the duration and will be expected to stand and kneel.

Moon-Randolph Homestead

The Moon-Randolph Homestead is a historic site and heritage orchard owned by the City of Missoula. During their Big Sky Experience at the homestead, students would learn about the complicated history of the homesteading era and about the social and environmental legacies of small-scale subsistence agriculture. As part of their service project, students would assist with seasonal tasks to help glean and care for the 130-year-old apple trees in our heritage orchard. I'd be happy to arrange for an outside speaker to provide more context on heritage orchards, living with bears, cider-making, etc. This site is on a homestead and orchard on uneven terrain that is not accessible by a wheelchair. Students will be outside for the duration and will be expected to stand and kneel.

National Museum of Forest Service History

The National Museum of Forest Service History is a nonprofit organization independent of the USDA Forest Service. Its mission is to share the rich history and story of America’s Conservation Legacy. The Museum has a 31-acre campus one mile west of the Missoula airport that has been open to the public since 2017 from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  To help secure the campus, a new fence is necessary on the northern boundary, near Highway 10 west. Students will help construct an approximately 4 foot high, coated metal fence with the assistance of the Museum’s landscape maintenance staff and his tractor. While this is not a barbed wire fence, the old fence is, and so work gloves will be provided to remove the old fencing as well as help construct the new.  Prior to this work students will be given a tour of the campus and a more detailed look at the Museum’s current exhibits, trail, and history.  This site will entail a service project building a fence, and students will be outside for the majority of the experience.

Wilderness Institute

Students will ride bikes to explore the gradient between intact protected areas (Rattlesnake Recreation Area), exurban areas comprising the wildland-urban interface, and urban environments found within the city boundary along the corridor of the Rattlesnake Creek and its riparian area. Traveling on bikes will allow us to physically experience the gradient as we move from the confluence of the creek with the Clark Fork River upstream through suburban neighborhoods to increasingly wild open space. Students will work either with the Watershed Education Network or UM wildlife biology graduate students to sample aquatic invertebrates in the creek and/or collect game camera footage used for a study of biodiversity patterns and population connectivity along the valley gradient.  This site requires biking and hiking on uneven terrain that is not accessible by a wheelchair.  Students are encouraged to bring their own bikes, but there will be some available to borrow.

Wild Montana and Davidson Honors College

During Wild Montana, Big Sky Experience students will explore the variety of public lands present in Montana, learn how these different types of lands are managed and what values they are managed for. Students will explore ways they can personally engage in protecting and advocating for public lands by acting as citizen scientists to collect information about wilderness study areas. During the field portion of the experience they will visit the Rattlesnake Recreation Area to practice the data collection methods and get ready to go out on their own, or with friends/family, to collect real data in a wilderness study area.  This site will require students to be outside on day two walking and hiking on unpaved roads and single-track trails that are not accessible by a wheelchair.

Zero Waste with UM Sustainability

Get connected with the campus community through the lens of Zero Waste. A concept that means much more than “better recycling”, you’ll work with UM Sustainability and UM Recycling to better understand the challenges and opportunities for addressing waste within local and broader environmental justice frameworks. Join us as we survey the campus, tour Garden City Compost’s municipal facility, learn how to conduct a campus waste and compost audit, and then workshop strategies to reduce and manage the items we found. Ultimately, you’ll become a campus Zero Waste change agent!  This site will visit a composting facility on day one that is on uneven ground and may be difficult for a wheelchair.

Health and Human Development


All Nations Health Center Logo




 UM School of Social Work Logo







UM Curry Health Center Wellness




UM Fraternity and Sorority Involvement Logo





Missoula Parks and Recreation Logo




UM Health and Medicine Logo


All Nations Health Center and HereMT

This session would introduce students to two resources that are focused on health and wellness for BIPOC folks in the community. On Day One, we will be joining UM faculty members in the ethnobotany garden to learn about native plants significant to Montana Tribes. We will harvest and process sage and mint to give to Elders, and to keep us physically and spiritually healthy in the academic year. On Day Two, we will head out to a local recreation area for a hike that will introduce students to area outdoor recreation opportunities while we try our hand at plant identification and keep an eye out for huckleberries!  This site will be outdoors for a majority of the experience and will require hiking on uneven terrain that is not accessible by a wheelchair.

Boxing Club Missoula and UM School of Social Work

Are you interested in having a positive impact on youth in your community? The Missoula Boxing Club is a local nonprofit that serves youth in Missoula. The club has a dual purpose: creating champions in the ring and creating champions in life. By offering youth a top-notch boxing program, they create a context for the development of character, help with education, life skills training, and mentorship. Through their programs, they fight the social ills of crime, violence, bullying, lack of education, hunger, and relational isolation. The UM School of Social Work is excited to partner with the Missoula Boxing Club to offer this BSE! On day one, we will visit the boxing gym, learn about the needs of youth in Missoula, the mission of the club, and see the program in action! On the second day, we will work together to plan and implement a strategy for advertising an upcoming fundraiser for the club. We will approach businesses while exploring downtown Missoula. This site will require students to walk to downtown Missoula and speak with local businesses.

Curry Health Center Wellness

Students will interact with each other in groups, set motivating and reachable wellness goals for the semester, learn how to use the You@UM app, and will be entered to win multiple different prizes ranging from hydro flasks to stickers and frisbees. This opportunity is great for all students, and after attending they will leave feeling confident in increasing their wellness status using the You at UM app, Wellness Resources, and Curry Health Center Services, and will have met new students just like you!  Masks are required inside the Curry Health Center where this experience will take place.

Fraternity and Sorority Involvement's Greek Guide to Missoula

This fall we created a "Greek's Guide to Missoula" to display our favorite on and off-campus study spots, places to hang out with friends, etc. For our first day of BSE, we are planning to give our students a "Greek's Guide to Missoula" tour. For day two, we plan to meet at the bear and either hike the M or walk on the Kim Williams trail. After our activity, we will be hosting a pancake breakfast at Greek row to meet new people, play yard games.  This site will take place outside for a majority of the experience and will require a significant amount of walking.

Missoula Parks and Recreation

Students will get a general introduction to Missoula Parks and Recreation, Services, local parks, walking and biking trails, and programs.  On day 1 students will enjoy teambuilding activities on our high-ropes course, and on day 2 they will assist with a service project at Fort Missoula Regional Park.  This site requires physical movement and will be outside for the duration, but all activities can be made to accommodate any differences in mobility.

UM Health and Medicine

Students will be presented with a medical mystery on the first day of the experience. They will work in small teams to determine what is ailing the fictitious patient and determine the best course of action for the patient.

Justice, Policy and Public Service



LeadershipU Logo




Cru Logo


LeadershipU is a UM campus program aimed to empower students to practice self-reflection, engage with peers, seek out social change, build better organizations, and cultivate community. Day 1 will be a Leadership Challenge to help discover your leadership style, and Day 2 will be telling your story in 3 sentences ending with I am Griz! The end product will be displayed in the University Center.


Missoula Refugee Families - Diverse Stories and New Communities

Students will engage with stories from international refugees in Missoula, learn about two local organizations who are advocating for these families in our community (Soft Landing and Missoula Alliance Church), then help plan and host a park day for Congolese refugee kids.



Science and Technology


 UM Environmental Control for Organismal Research Labs Logo




Griz eSports Logo



 Makerspace Logo





SpectrUM Logo

Environmental Control for Organismal Research Laboratories

The ECOR Labs Big Sky Experience will introduce students to research at UM, especially research examining plant and insect responses to environmental factors.  The group will spend meaningful time in research labs affiliated with the Division of Biological Sciences, including the ECOR Laboratories, a new core facility focused on providing environmental control for organism research.  The overarching goals of our experience will be to convey the value of research in academic learning, spark interest in the scientific process, and help students feel comfortable crossing the threshold into research space as part of their learning at UM.

Griz eSports

We will do an introduction to eSports and our mission of diversity, inclusion, and community. We will discuss the many internships and job opportunities parallel with esports. We will then host a friendly fun competitive game tournament called the mystery game tournament. This tournament is designed to be extremely inclusive and is a ton of fun! Then do some outdoor gaming as well like cornhole, spike ball, etc. all while getting to know students in our program as well as our staff!  All-access gaming controllers are not currently available.

Makerspace - Missoula Public Library

The Missoula Public Library's Makerspace is a creative technology hub that allows Missoulians of all ages to utilize innovative tools and technology for creative, educational, or business pursuits for free or at a minimal cost. My plan for the Big Sky Experience is to initially show students what tools and resources we have in the Makerspace, and in the Missoula Public Library at large, in order for them to utilize these varied resources for their educational pursuits at UM. In terms of an activity the students can complete during their Big Sky Experience, my main idea was to teach the students how they could make their own 3D printable or laser cut/engraved business card utilizing 3D modeling software and 2D graphic design software. Students would then have time to work on the business card project, and then I could 3D print or laser cut/engrave their final product. I am open to other ideas as well for projects students could work on while in here.

SpectrUM Discovery Area - Missoula Public Library

spectrUM is UM's hands-on science center, now located at the new Missoula Public Library. We create science experiences that feature science research from UM and beyond, and share a love of science with the public. We'd love to share opportunities for students to learn about our services, share science experiences with kids, and learn about the various partners we work with at the Missoula Public Library, including the UM Living Lab, Families First Learning Lab, Missoula Community Access Television, and of course, the Library itself.