Students and professors from the University of Montana learn about how people are dealing with life and livelihoods under dynamic conditions

Archive for December, 2012

Introduction to the Vietnam 2013 Class

Sixteen students from the University of Montana will be in Vietnam from December 27, 2012 – January 19, 2013 for a study abroad field course focused on climate change impacts and adaptation.  It’s the only program of its kind in the U.S, developed through a partnership between The University of Montana’s Mansfield Center and Can Tho University, an innovative university in the Mekong Delta.

Students will study the intertwined relationships of society, environment, and economy, to look at the potential impacts of climate change on each of these, and to see how people are adapting, or planning to adapt, to the coming changes.

The group will be spend several days in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), take field trips to coastal fishing communities, meet with rice and aquaculture farmers, and visit cultural sites. They’ll also travel to mangrove forests in Ca Mau Province and wetlands in Tram Chim National Park (one of the last natural wetlands in the Plain of Reeds wetland system), and spend four days in a homestay.

Meet the group and follow along through our daily blogs posts and photos

Dan Spencer

Dan Spencer is a faculty member at the University of Montana where he teaches in the Environmental Studies program and contributes to the International Develop Studies and Climate Change Studies minors.  Some of his areas of teaching and research interest include ecological ethics, ethical issues in ecological restoration, and globalization, justice, and environmental issues in Latin America, Africa and Asia.  He first had a chance to visit Vietnam and Cambodia while teaching with Semester at Sea in 2011, and he is delighted to be able to return to Vietnam to study the effects of climate change on the Mekong Delta.

Anderson_Milo_PhotoHello, I’m Milo Anderson. Currently I am a senior at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas. I am majoring in both Field Biology and Zoo Science, with plans of attending graduate school with focus on environmental education. I am extremely excited to be able to experience Vietnam through the University of Montana study abroad program. My love of traveling has taken me on a couple of African adventures, but I am sitting at the edge of my seat with excitement to be able to explore Vietnam with a group of like minded individuals. When I’m not working at the zoo I love to spend as much of my time outside as possible. While in Vietnam I hope to not only learn more about the specific threats of climate change but also more about the various cultures, wildlife, ecosystems, and the country as a whole.


My name is Sara Anderson.  I’m from Missoula and currently in the middle of my fourth year at the University of Montana, majoring in Environmental Studies, minoring in Spanish, Wildland Restoration and International Development Studies, and dabbling in creative writing, women’s and gender studies and botany.  When not studying, I enjoy ultimate frisbee, rowing, reading, cooking, cross country skiing and hiking.  I am excited to spend time in a country where I don’t speak the language and to develop a greater understanding of the impacts of climate change and the opinions of the people about climate change in a country that is very different from the US.


Hi! My name is Ellen Brandell; I am a Wildlife Biology major and Climate Change Studies and Communications double minor. I was born and raised outside of Detroit, Michigan, and moved to Big Sky Country in hopes of finding tranquility in the outdoors and incredible opportunities. Going to Vietnam is my first adventure to Asia and I am mostly looking forward to the delicious food and learning about and understanding people vastly different from Western culture. Other than traveling, I enjoy camping, hiking, eating, snowshoeing, and essentially all outdoor activities. One day I hope to work to save species being endangered by the changing climate.

Justin Harkin grew up in Woodstock, Georgia.  He received a BA in religion from Emory and an master’s degree in theology and ethics from Vanderbilt.  Back home, he spent his summers guiding on Tennessee’s Ocoee River and used all the free time he could find to explore the South’s excellent rock climbing.  He moved to Bozeman in the fall of 2009 to spend the winter ice climbing in Hyalite Canyon and has barely left Montana since.  He’s jointly enrolled in the law school and the environmental studies program.  He’s excited to explore a new part of the world and to learn how other cultures approach conservation and environmental ethics.
Harkins_Michelle_PhotoMichelle Harkin was born and raised in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania.  She graduated from Seton Hill University with a BA in History and went on to work for the Republican Party of Pennsylvania and the McCain campaign. After the campaign ended, Michelle decided to move to Montana with her fiancé (and now husband), Justin. Michelle is currently enrolled in the Master’s of Accountancy program at UM and will be graduating in May.  After graduation, she will move to Billings and start a job as a tax accountant at Eide Bailly.  Michelle enjoys cooking, traveling, hanging out with friends and family, and hiking with her dog, Otter.  She’s excited to experience new people, a new culture, and a new environment.
DCIM100GOPROMy name is Hailey Jorgensen and I am a senior at the University of Montana majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Climate Change Studies. Born and raised outside of Seattle, Washington I have experienced the big city lifestyle but fell in love with the outdoors during my summers in Oregon.  I love hiking, camping, mountain biking and anything on the water. My love for river sports triggered my interest in water resource management. Going to Vietnam, I am excited to study climate change effects and adaptation strategies, particularly to water rights issue and sea level rise.


I am Harper Kaufman and I am a senior at the University of Montana studying Religious Studies and climate change studies. I grew up in the mountains of Colorado and moved to Missoula two years ago after going to school in Portland, OR for two years. I love spending time outdoors running, backpacking, skiing, hiking, and more. My passion for climate change and mitigation education has come about as a result of my experiences here in Montana. I have been working for Nicky Phear this past semester as I simultaneously take several Climate Change classes. This issue has been a huge part of my life these past few months, and I cannot wait to get a glimpse at the issue from the Vietnam prospective. I am going to Vietnam to further my education on the extent of global Climate Change problems and to explore the fascinating and foreign culture of Vietnam.

Hello! My name is Aimee Kelley and I am a native Californian, roughing it in Montana for the first year! I chose to attend UM in Missoula because I love the outdoors and all the great recreational opportunities the area offers.  So far I have been lucky to have had great KellyDickinson_Photoexperiences hiking, camping, rock climbing, and enjoying the many rivers. My passion for adventure has instilled a great love and respect for the environment in me, leading me to major in Resource Conservation. I am really excited for this study abroad trip because I want to make a positive impact in the world, both locally and internationally, and hope this experience will grow my knowledge and compassion towards different cultures. I am also stoked to visit rural areas that aren’t very touristy and eat lots and lots of delicious food! I am thankful for this opportunity to study with Dan Spencer and the other students on this trip.
Montague_PhotoAda Montague is a third year law student at the University of Montana.  She was born and raised in Gloucester, Virginia.  She received a BA in Urban Studies from Vassar College in 2003. She worked as a planner for Gallatin County from 2007-2010.
The work introduced her to issues of water scarcity in the Rocky Mountain West. She entered law school in 2010 and continues to focus on natural resource dispute resolution, land use and water law. She hopes to continue after law school with a career in water law.Schaad_Photo
My name is David Schaad and I am a supersenior here at the University of Montana wrapping up majors in Environmental Studies and Spanish, along with minors in Climate Change Studies, International Development, and Latin American Studies. I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, live above a café, and have a devout attachment to my bicycle.  I am ecstatic to be given this opportunity to study with Dan Spencer and learn alongside this fantastic group of students in Vietnam. I had the good fortune of joining Dan for his travel seminar on environmental justice and sustainable development in Guatemala in 2010, which was my first trip overseas and my most life-changing experience to date. The only thing better than getting to travel with Dan in Central America is doing so and then joining him for another travel seminar in a completely distinct region of the globe.  This is my first experience setting foot in all of Asia, a continent which I know far too little about, and my first time traveling to a country whose primary language I do not speak. I am eager to push my comfort zone and expand my cultural awareness whilst gaining firsthand familiarity with climate change issues, efforts/projects, and solutions in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam, and hope to bring home a great many insights to teach my fellow countryfolk with regard to sustainable development and aligning ourselves more fully with the principles of resiliency and environmental stewardship.Simonson_Photo

I’m Ben Simonson and I’m very excited to have the opportunity to be apart of this study abroad trip, and am looking forward to experiencing every aspect of the Vietnamese culture. From whatever crazy delicacies I can find in the market (dont worry, I have an Acidophilus prescription), to observing social relationships, to experiencing the Vietnamese music scene, I’m not going to let a single opportunity pass me by. I am from Fargo, ND, and am a senior studying resource management and climate change studies at the University of Montana, which is the foremost reason I am taking part in this trip; to study the effects of climate change on the Mekong Delta.

Rebecca Singleton is a sophomore studying chemistry at the University of Montana. She was born in California, where she lived for 15 years before moving to Milwaukee Wisconsin. She decided to go to the University of Montana because she loves the mountains and wanted to experience a new culture. She loves to read, see live shows, and snowboard. Rebecca also loves to travel and hopes to one-day travel to every continent. Her interest for traveling made her decide to look into study abroad programs. Rebecca’s love for traveling and her interest in climate change studies made Deep in the Delta a perfect program for her.



My name is Milan Vinks. I am a senior at the University of Montana graduating this spring with an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Biology. I went to high school in Cincinnati, Ohio and moved to Montana in 2009 to take advantage of the wonderful outdoor adventures the state has to offer. I am a big proponent of adventure, which prompted me to join this expedition to Vietnam. I look forward to experiencing a completely new culture and I am extremely curious to see the Vietnamese perspective on conservation and natural resource management considering the impending global climate change.








Winkelman_PhotoHi! My name is Rennie Winkelman, and I am a freshman in the Wildlife Biology program at the University of Montana. I moved to
Montana from Colorado, and I am so glad that I came to Missoula. I love being outdoors and camping, fishing, hiking, biking, rafting, and skiing. I really enjoy traveling, especially when you can spend time in an area and explore the local culture and environment.

I am very excited about this trip to Vietnam. I am looking forward to studying environmental issues on an international scale, and I hope that this trip will solidify my interest in environmental science as a minor.  I also look forward to experiencing a place that is so different from the United States.  This will be the trip of a lifetime for me. I am very excited to have this opportunity to travel with other students to such a fascinating place.




Matthews_Photo“Hi my name is Madison Matthews I am a senior at the University of Montana.
I am majoring in Rhetoric and Public Discourse Communication and I have a
minor in Climate Change Studies. I was born and raised in
northern California and moved to San Luis Obispo for college. After being
at the beach for two years of college I realized I needed to be in
the mountains so I moved to Montana to finish my last 2 years of college. I
love to hike, camp, run, snowboard, cook, travel and much more. I hope to
work in a field that allows me to use my communication skills to protect
the environment. I am so excited to study climate change in Vietnam with
Dan Spencer as our professor”


I’m Rebecca Stone and I love an adventure! Whether it be putting pickles on my peanut butter sandwich or canoeing in Amazon, i’d like to say i’ll try anything once! I am currently studying Art and Environmental Studies at the University of Montana, and hope to join the Peace Corps after I graduate. Stone_Photo_1958The biodiversity of equatorial climates has always intrigued me, and I believe that protecting these last remaining havens for plants, animals, and humans alike is paramount for the wellbeing of our planet. So when I saw that Climate Change in Vietnam was an optional study abroad course for Winter Session, I applied right away.  I am very excited to learn more about this amazingly diverse country, and feel so privileged to be able to have this experience with my fellow UM students. Vietnam here we come!