Monday, April 14, 2014

History of the M

by Kira Stoops

The M Trail in all its glory.

The whitewashed M at the mouth of Bridger Canyon seems to symbolize Bozeman itself, welcoming travelers from a western perch at 7,000 feet and looming peacefully over the entire town. Technically, however, the huge letter stands for Montana State University, and was bought by the hard labor of the enterprising class of 1918.

In the fall of 1915, MSU sophomores pledged to create a monument to the university. Drawing up a proposal and wrangling a U.S. Forest Service permit, the students earned a day off of class, and 60 young men trudged up Mount Baldy to kickstart the project. In one day, they carefully drew outlines for the 240’ x 160’ letter, pried rocks from the hillside, and carried them by hand to fill in the site. When the snows cleared in spring of ’16, they returned to whitewash their masterpiece.

From then on, whitewashing the M became a ritual for MSU freshmen. An honorary society of seven senior men called the Septemviri was established in ’20 to safeguard campus traditions. Alongside a sophomore unit called the Fangs, the two societies prohibited freshman from dating until the M had received its annual coat of lime. 

Repainting the M has become an MSU tradition.
A women’s counterpart to the Fangs emerged, the Spurs, and eventually the two groups joined into one: the Fangs and Spurs. (This past year, they changed names once more to the more descriptive and humdrum “Student Alumni Association”.) Over time, the Fangs and Spurs, alongside various athletic groups, gradually accepted the responsibility for the upkeep of the M, returning annually to re-lime the letter and collect trash along its two approach trails.

Still, by the late 90s, the M needed more than another coat of paint. Led by the late Torlief Aasheim (former director of Montana Cooperative Extension Service and graduate of ’37), university employees, alumni, and community members organized a major restoration of the landmark. They raised $100,000, promptly redesigning and paving the trail’s parking lot, replacing fallen rock, and repairing and improving the trails.

The M offers spectacular views of the valley only miles from the city.
Since then, a new tradition launched at the renovated M. In honor of the first football game of the season in 2007, the Spurs and Fangs lit candles outlining the M, letting the symbol glow into the night.  The candle ceremony seems to honor a caption from the 1918 MSU yearbook: "May the 'M' stand long as a symbol of our loyalty to Montana State and a reminder of what a united class can accomplish."

Want to learn more about the M Trail? Visit Outside Bozeman's guide to the trail.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Working for the Winter

by David Tucker

College is expensive and employment options are limited for students. Don’t panic. Look no further than Bozeman’s most abundant resource: the mountains, and more specifically, Bridger Bowl.  

Less than 20 miles from campus, Bridger Bowl offers something for everyone. Whether you are new to skiing and snowboarding, or think you have what it takes to instruct, something will suit your strengths and interests. But don’t take it from us—let current MSU students and Bridger employees be your guides.

Of all the jobs at a ski area, the most competitive is probably that of instructor, so if you want to teach, take Grace Benge’s advice and apply early. Grace is a freshman at MSU working part-time at Bridger on weekends. “The best perk is the free ski pass,” says Grace, “but the lively social scene is also nice. I made new friends and definitely plan on coming back.” While free skiing with new friends sounds nice, it’s not all fun and games. “You’ll be tired, so don’t plan on working after skiing. Manage your time and get classwork done before instructing.”
Another tough day at the office.
If you’ve skied Pierre’s Knob at all this year, you probably remember the red-hatted dancing machine, Caitlin Marquez. Caitlin is a sophomore at MSU and spreads cheer everyday by showing off her moves while she bumps chairs as a lift operator. “Positive attitude always” is her mantra, which she tries to stick to no matter if it’s -20 or pouring rain. “I don’t know where life’s going to take me, but for now, it’s pretty cool working here at Bridger Bowl.”

While many jobs at the resort involve spending time outside in the cold, there are also great indoor options. Take it from Dylan Lien, an MSU freshman who works in kitchen of the Saddle Peak Lodge. “We get a free ski pass, a shift meal, and free drinks.” Free skiing and free food? Doesn’t get much better than that. If you do decide to work at Bridger, heed Dylan’s advice and take the employee bus— that’s free also.
Working hard to ski hard.
It may not seem like it now, but next year is looming on the horizon. As you think about what classes to take, and what major to pursue, don’t forget to plan on winter employment. Check out Bridger’s employment options at and we’ll see you on the mountain.

David Tucker is a snowboard instructor at Bridger Bowl and an assistant editor at Outside Media Group, publishers of the MSU Pocket Guide.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Underage Entertainment

by Meghan O’Neal

Sometimes, it can feel like there isn't much to do in this town if you're under 21, and at some point, house parties just don't do it anymore. Don’t worry, there are plenty of activities for you youngsters in this great town of ours.

The Bowl
The Bowl, Bozeman’s only public bowling alley, is one of the more popular spots in town. With Monday night specials, it won’t break the bank, and it’s a great place to bring a group or make new friends.

You don’t have to travel far to have some fun. The Rec Center has billiards and bowling, big screen TVs, musical shows and you can even rent video games. Or check out a cheap flick at the Procrastinator Theater

Local performer Tales from Ghost Town at the Rec Center.
The Zebra/Mixers
Keep your eyes peeled for their 18+ shows. Listen to live performances, show off your dance moves, and get a little taste of what downtown nightlife is all about. More information about upcoming shows can be found on their Facebook pages, or visit or

Norris Hot Springs
These natural hot springs provide the perfect setting to soak away school stresses. Check out their live music on the weekend, grab a bite to eat, and relax with friends at this hot spot. And you can’t beat the views on the 30-minute jaunt outside Bozeman.

Few things beat unwinding after a long week at Norris's hot springs.
Hike the M
There’s a reason why this is a popular Bozeman go-to. With three different routes and views that are difficult to beat, this close-to-home hike is perfect at any time of day.

Get Involved
MSU works hard to provide alcohol-free events for students. Mingle with your neighbors at RHA events. Get involved in one of MSU’s many clubs. Join an intramural team. These activities provide wonderful opportunities to meet new friends, get to know the school, and there’s always something to do. 

Your days of high-school sports may be over, but intramural opportunities abound.
Make the most of your college experience. Don’t get stuck in a rut. Expand your horizons and try new things. That’s what the college experience is about, after all.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Becoming a Leader

By Carmen McSpadden

Leadership can be an intimidating concept when you're still trying out majors or formulating a career path. Yet, with a small and supportive class environment, the literary shoulders of giants to stand on, and local leaders as mentors and role models, a whole generation of MSU students are coming into their own—and empowered by an MSU certificate program that rewards students who think for themselves and do the things that they dream of doing.

The MSU Leadership Fellows certificate program (LF) does just this, adding value to all MSU degrees. The program incorporates self-study, service work, and experiential education to empower students to become positive agents of change. Every semester, the students’ “Personal Leadership Plans” tell the story further.

Innovative MSU programs tap into students' potential to lead.
One student fellow supplemented her study of books by leaders such as Rudy Giuliani, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton with an initiative to make the MSU campus smoke-free. Two students grew their non-profit Tias y Tios organization by enlisting other students to help support the children of Spanish speakers new to the area. A Sustained Dialogue chapter, designed to air out contentious issues, emerged when several students identified a need and worked to make it a reality. These are just a few examples of how students are merging their interests with a new understanding of themselves as leaders.

Montana State University student Michael Edwards talks during a presentation by MSU Leadership students.
Becoming an MSU Leadership Fellow during your undergraduate or graduate education is a straightforward process. Take the three-credit “Leadership Foundations” seminar, the three-credit Leadership Capstone seminar (recommended for senior or junior year), and 12 leadership electives from a list of over 150 approved courses. Easily tailored to fit any major, LF recently added a one-credit “Leadership Exploration” class for first-year students.

To get involved in the MSU Leadership Fellows Program, contact Carmen McSpadden at or visit

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Guide to Filming Action Sports

By Duncan Williamson

Do you ogle your friends' YouTube videos? Dream about being a powder-ripping star? With the accessibility of inexpensive cameras suitable for shooting action sports, it seems that everyone these days has a YouTube account, hoping to impress their friends and get millions of views. You may be asking, how do you separate yourself from the pack? Here's a quick guide to getting ahead in the oversaturated world of amateur action-sports cinematography.

Step 1: the Right Camera
Any one of a dozen different cameras will suffice in the quest to become the next great action-sports filmmaker. But the right one for you is harder to find. First off, consider cost-effectiveness. Don’t go spending thousands of dollars on a camera with features you'll never use and that will leave you too broke to actually get out and film. The perfect camera will match your budget and fit your skills at making videos. GoPro is the most popular choice, with a wide selection of options, ranging from $200 to $400 – can’t really go wrong here. GoPro even has a omplete package that will do, and go, wherever you need. 

If you're on a tight budget, the Contour Roam is the way to go. With a few different trim levels, it can do most of the necessary technical things you will need as a beginner. The best part about the Contour is you can find it for discounted prices. 

In the end, it is up to you, but my suggestion would be a Contour for the beginning action filmmaker, and a GoPro for the next Red Bull athlete. 

Now Let's Make A Movie
So you have a good camera and you want to go out and make a badass video. First make sure you have the essential accessories. Extra battery packs are always a good idea, especially for those long days on the slopes. The most avoidable problem is running out of battery life before you get the best trick of the day. Second, you need camera mounts. One of the best ways to ruin a video is with shaky, badly focused or directed shots. Also, make sure you have the right attachments for your camera. Both the GoPro and the Contour make a whole slew of mounts and attachments to get every shot you could imagine

Now let's shoot. As YouTube videos attest, the first-person view is popular. With a simple chest or helmet mount, you can capture awesome footage that will make you feel like you're right there doing it when you watch it. Don’t stick too much to one type of shot. Get creative with the mounts. Find cool angles and interesting ways to capture the action. And don't be afraid to poach ideas from other videos – copying styles you like is good practice and will teach you what you like and don't like, which is integral to developing your own unique style.

Time to Edit
Once you've completed a killer day filming, its time to put a video together. You can do this with simple programs like iMovie for Mac, and Windows Movie Maker for PC. The first step is finding an epic song that fits your footage – play around with different songs and styles until you have something that matches the pace and tone of the day. Once you have a song picked, start editing. Make sure you cut to the music, or in other words, make it fit. This will make awesome shots look even better when they go along with the music. Don’t forget to play with editing and vary the speeds of shots or transitions. If you're new to editing, don't get fancy – just make a simple, clean-cut video. Get creative after you've got some experience under your belt. 
Photo by Ryan Krueger
After all this is done, you should now have a YouTube-worthy video to show off to your friends. The best thing about this is that with a very low budget you can make awesome videos and progress your skills as both a filmmaker and an athlete.

Who knows? Maybe you'll whip up a video worthy of the Coldsmoke Awards or the Backcountry Film Festival. Get your gear, set your plans, and get out there!


GoPro YouTube Page
Duncan Williamson’s pages:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Veterans' Families Freedom Scholarship

By John Baden, PhD, Foundation for Research on Economics & the Environment

In 2012, the Montana State University Alumni Foundation, working in conjunction with interested donors and Montana State University’s Office of Disability, Re-Entry and Veteran Services, established the Veteran Families Freedom Scholarship Initiative. 

Gifts to this initiative create endowed scholarships (for undergraduates) and fellowships (for graduate students) are designed to help:
  • Qualifying spouses of veteranswho have made their own tremendous sacrificesto pursue college degrees and their related economic opportunities.
  • Address known gaps in the Post 9/11 GI Bill, improving access to and retention of veterans and veterans’ families at our University
  • Empower veteran families to say “Yes, both of us,” rather than ask “But, which of us?” to higher education. 
  • Establish MSU and Bozeman as the University and community of choice for those veterans returning from military service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Allow the Montana State University community to benefit from the diversity, talents, experiences and leadership skills that our veterans and their families uniquely offer. 
Bozeman is remarkable for its contagious generosity. We swim in a pool of opportunities to participate in good causes.  Many are interconnected. I will spare you the details but this one links Warriors and Quiet Waters, the Montana Chamber Society, the Bozeman Symphony, the Museum of the Rockies, Eagle Mount, the recent Bozeman Gun Show, and the MSU Alumni Foundation. Rejoice in the result and resolve to somehow contribute in 2014.  

Carol Clarke Smith might win the IM (individual medley) in Bozeman's pool of opportunities to participate in good causes. Here is her story:

My motivation for creating the VFFS stems from my experiences as a volunteer for Bozeman's Warriors and Quiet Waters. My favorite job was hosting spouses of Vets for a day of camaraderie. Their stories were heart wrenching. Unlike their military husbands, these courageous women are untrained for the battles of life at home. What most impressed me was their strength, determination and commitment to make their family’s lives as normal as possible, in spite of overwhelming medical circumstances that face so many of our returning Veterans. It is always warming to send them home knowing they were able to laugh, cry, bond, and yes, learn to fly fish in our beautiful Montana! (The first recipient of my scholarship is Saul Martinez's wife, Sarah)! In a serendipitous meeting, Sean Gifford, former president of the Veteran's Association at MSU, an alum, and veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, told me of the scholarship needs of spouses of veterans. While the GI Bill covers veterans' tuitions, spouses are not covered.   As a member of the MSU Alumni Foundation Board, I asked our president, Michael Stevenson, what our foundation was doing for our veterans’ spouses support.  Answer -- nothing...yet.  There was a matching gift MSUAF program in place.  Through this match,  $12,500 became a $25,000 scholarship. If only I had the $$$ I could make this happen.

An unanticipated sale of her family's business in Illinois gave her an opportunity.  Carol Clarke Smith opened a new checking account.  Her first check for $12,500 established the initiative. Then she provided a second check for the same amount. With the match, this provides $50,000 in scholarships for spouses. Carol concludes "Establishing the scholarship is my humble and infinite gratitude to those in the military that have defended our freedom and our great Country. Big hugs to the spouses, children, parents, siblings, of our Vets. Thank you."

Carol feels goodand so will you. To contribute contact Tyler Wiltgen, Principal Gifts Officer: (406) 994-3743,

Carol's 'windfall' also funded a contribution to MSU's President's Fine Arts Series and the newly formed Bridger Biathlon Club at Bohart Ranch. These are reason why Carol is a strong contender for the IM (individual medley) in Bozeman's pool of participants in good causes. Please join her team.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Keeping the Resolutions

2014 has arrived, and chances are you've made a resolution or two for the coming year. Whether it be better grades, losing weight, or finding better relationships, it's a great time to make those changes you've been putting off until now. Problem is, though, many fail to keep those resolutions. Fear not; we've compiled a few tips for keeping those resolutions as you head into the new semester.

The "drinking more than everyone else" resolution should be reconsidered.
Don't expect to completely reinvent yourself.
"New year, new me" is a delightfully overused Facebook status this time of year, but that attitude alone sets you up for failure. It's all too easy to make the mistake of taking on too many resolutions; and it can create a domino effect when one does not work out. So instead of resolving to attain a 4.0 GPA, lose 50 pounds, get a better job, save a thousand dollars, and discover the fate of the Amelia Earhart; choose one or two and give them your all.

Set goals that can be gauged.
"Do better in school" is certainly an admirable resolution, but also incredibly vague. How can your success be gauged? Instead, set a specific goal to attain. Try to choose a goal that can be achieved with incremental success along the way, so if the goal is to improve grades; keep track of your individual assignments along the way to keep your eye on the prize.

"I passed Econ!"
Keep the resolutions reasonable.
Ambition certainly isn't a bad thing; it's what keeps our world moving forward. Sometimes, though, we overestimate ourselves as we set our resolutions, and feel the sting of failure when they don't work out. Carefully consider what you think is within your power to accomplish. Instead of shooting for bench-pressing 400 pounds by the end of the year when you have yet to break 200, pick a goal inbetween. Besides, if you surpass what you expected to do, soldier forward and you might just accomplish what you never thought you could.

Slow and steady for reaching those resolutions, don't go overboard.
With all of that in mind, here are some helpful articles for common New Years resolutions:

Weight Loss
Shedding Those Winter Pounds
Working Out for Credit
Avoiding the "Freshman 15"

Improving Grades
Senior Advice

Frugal Use of Money
Frugal Fun

Start Now for a Future Career
Bozeman-Area Careers

Do you have any tips for keeping resolutions? Let us know in the comment section.