Staff

Darlene Samson, Director

Darlene SamsonPhone: (406) 243-4199
E-mail: darlene.samson@umontana.edu

Darlene's Study Tip: As the Director of TRIO SSS, I  warmly  share with YOU that students are our focus; student success and student graduation. 

I have served in the program for the past 29 years; first as Advisor and Director for the past six years.  I am first-generation, low-income and understand the unique needs of our students.  I love our students and everything TRIO embodies to support students to the best of our capabilities.  Working at the university and within the TRIO SSS program, I learn something new every day which makes my work so enjoyable!

I have two daughters, one who is in graduate school and one who is an undergraduate.   I’m lucky to understand higher education from a student and parent perspective.  Although having a degree, navigating higher education is not always a smooth road to travel!  I encourage you as a first-generation student to join us to help you develop YOUR individual, unique road map to graduation. 

Janet Zupan, Advising Coordinator/Instructor

Janet ZupanPhone: (406) 243-4210
E-mail: janet.zupan@umontana.edu

Janet's Study Tip: Strive to be an active, reflective learner. Move beyond memorization and recitation, to the ideas, concepts, and spirit behind every subject. Your college experience can be mind-altering. Approach it with verve!

I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico (long ago!), but sped off from there and through my childhood to follow my dad in his career as a test pilot in the Air Force. He and my mom came from the Scott's Valley in Northern California, so for lack of a hometown, I adopted that one in my heart. In 1990, I earned an undergraduate degree in English Literature from California State University, Chico. I then came to The University of Montana, seeking an M.F.A. in Creative Writing (Poetry). Two years into that degree, I met and married a native Montanan (a move that extended my stay in this beautiful state!) We've been raising our three children together since 1992. After graduating, I've served as the director for Hellgate Writers, Inc., and worked as a poet-in-residence for the Missoula Writing Collaborative. I became part of the TRIO SSS staff in 1997 and feel very lucky and pleased about that!

Heather Hibbard, Instructor and Advisor

Heather HibbardPhone: (406) 243-4880
E-mail: Heather.Hibbard@umontana.edu

Heather's Study Tip:Try to connect course content to something meaningful or important in your life. The more you can connect, the more you will remember!

I am originally from Omak, Washington, and moved to Montana in 2002 to finish the last 2 years of by Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies. I later returned to school to complete a Master’s degree in Education. I have been with TRIO SSS since 2008, starting off as Program Assistant, then Tutor Coordinator, and now Instructor, Advisor, and Mentor Program Manager. If a student has a dream of earning their bachelor’s degree, I strongly believe that with our support, they will achieve it! Outside of work, I enjoy spending time outdoors with my husband and two children!

The TRIO SSS staff has over 50 years of combined experience in TRIO programs. In a visit to our offices, you will find a welcoming, approachble, knowledgeable staff, and a diverse, hard-working, dedicated group of students. We take the goal of graduation seriously, and look forward to helping students toward this goal!

Peter Donaldson, Advisor/Tutor Coordinator

Peter DonaldsonPhone: (406) 243-4202
E-mail: Peter.Donaldson@mso.umt.edu

Peter’s Study Tip: Ask questions!  If there’s something you don’t understand (in an assignment, in a class lecture, in the course readings, or in reviewing your notes), don’t be afraid to find someone to help.   Your professors and TA’s are there to help you learn, so stop by during their office hours if you have questions.  Also seek out tutoring opportunities on campus or work with your classmates to start a study group.  No one can know everything, and the only way to learn is to ask!

I am originally from the Bozeman area and, while I enjoy traveling whenever possible, am so happy to have found a home here in Missoula and at the University of Montana.  I've been proud to be a part of the TRIO team at UM for almost 10 years now.  I've found a passion in supporting education opportunities for students on our campus and across the state.  My employment background had focused on administration and Human Resources, but helping to make post-secondary education attainable to all has helped me to understand the value of education as a path for social mobility and and a way for us all to understand one another better.  TRIO Works because the people who work here care about students. We're your biggest advocates and champions.  We look forward to you achieving your dreams through education, whatever that looks like for you!

Erin Shaw, Program Coordinator

Phone: (406) 243-5032
E-mail: erin.shaw@mso.umt.edu

Erin's Study Tip: I am originally from Eugene, Oregon and moved to Montana in 1999 to help lead the University of Montana Women’s Soccer Team to numerous Big Sky Championships. Following my soccer career and graduating from UM with a B.S. in psychology, I began an extensive career working with underserved and underprivileged Montana youth through Youth Homes and Western Montana Mental Health Center.  I helped develop the first Comprehensive School and Community Treatment Program at Hellgate High School which is now found in all Missoula high schools. I later moved to Dillon, Montana where I worked in TRiO as the Transition and Proficiency Coordinator and as an Academic Advisor at the University of Montana Western.  

I returned to Missoula in 2014 and have been busy raising twin boys, working as the Network Manager for the Montana College Attainment Network, and organizing fundraising events for numerous conservation organizations in Missoula. In my limited free time, I can be found gardening heirloom varieties of tomatoes, fly-fishing, camping, and floating Montana’s rivers with my family. 

Micall Searles, TRIO Academic Coach/Instructor

Phone: (406) 243-4880
E-mail: mical.searles@umontana.edu

Michall's Study Tip:

Approach challenges and failures as opportunities for learning. Challenges and setbacks are part of everyone’s journey to success, and the most successful people view failure as an opportunity to learn, grow, and persevere. When things are difficult, try your best, ask for help, move forward, and remember - you belong here!

I grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota and attended the University of Wisconsin – River Falls, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Being a first-generation student myself, I felt intimidated, overwhelmed, and excited by the world of higher education. Fortunately, I built close connections with my professors, who mentored me throughout the process. I had an amazing college experience and tried to take advantage of every opportunity offered to me, including studying abroad for four months in Europe. My husband and I excitedly moved to the beautiful city of Missoula in 2015 so I could pursue my master’s degree in Counseling at the University of Montana. We love Missoula and spend a lot of our time in the outdoors - traveling, hiking with our dog, and camping. I spent the last year of my master’s program working as an intern with TRIO SSS and earned my MA in Counseling in May, 2019.  I am thrilled to continue my work with students at TRIO SSS on their path toward success!