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

Introduction to the Vietnam 2015 class

Thirteen students and one professor from the University of Montana will be in Vietnam from December 28, 2014 – January 19, 2015 for the fifth annual study abroad field course focused on climate change impacts and adaptation in the Mekong Delta. This innovative program is made possible through a partnership between The University of Montana’s Mansfield Center and Can Tho University.

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

The group will 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.



Nicky Phear

Nicky Phear 

Dr. Nicky Phear is a faculty member at the University of Montana where she coordinates and teaches for the Climate Change Studies Program. UM’s climate change minor provides training in the scientific, social, political, and ethical dimensions of global climate change to offer students a unique, multidisciplinary understanding of the issue. Nicky co-teaches the introductory Climate Change: Science and Society course and develops experiential learning opportunities for students through internships, practicums, and field courses. In addition to Vietnam, Nicky has developed and led field-based climate change courses in Montana and Bhutan. This will be her third time leading the program in Vietnam. She’s thrilled to return to the warmth, hospitality, and graciousness of her colleagues in Vietnam.

Shanti Johnson

Shanti Johnson

After acting stints on the stage in Los Angeles, I felt drawn to a new creative storytelling path — journalism. As a current graduate student in the University of Montana’s environmental journalism program, I’m excited for the opportunity to travel abroad with the Climate Change Studies department. Traveling to Vietnam has been a goal of mine for many years and I hope the hands-on experience will help me better understand the impacts of climate change in the Mekong Delta. I intend to dedicate my remaining time at UM to covering environmental issues in Vietnam.

Lauren Miller

Lauren Miller

Greetings! My name is Lauren Miller and I am currently in my fourth year at the University of Montana studying Community and Environmental Planning and Climate Change studies. I grew up in Billings, Montana and spent the majority of my childhood skiing, fishing, camping and exploring the outdoors. I am interested in studying community planning and how cities adapt to the changing climate. In Vietnam, I hope to learn more about these rural communities and the steps they are taking in order to prepare for the effects of climate change. ​


Henry Lilly

Henry Lilly

My name is Henry Lilly and I am from Portland, Oregon. I am a junior at the University of Montana pursuing a degree in Geography and a minor in Mountain Studies. I am a member of the Global Leadership Initiative and the UM Track and Field Team. Besides my trip to Vietnam, I have travelled to parts of Mexico, Canada, and participated in an exchange program in Costa Rica. My main interest in participating in this program is to learn about the different demographics of a developing nation. With a population close to 90 million people with 54 different ethnic groups in Vietnam, there is a lot to be learned about this country and its people. With a growing population, economy, and culture, Vietnam is a great place to study the traits and demographics of a developing nation.


Cassandre Kritikos

Cassandre Kritikos

I am a sophomore studying Business at the University of Montana. I have previously traveled to Nepal, Central America, and Europe, in addition to touring various places in North America and the United States. I’m eagerly awaiting my departure to Vietnam, and is especially excited to be able to see the rich Vietnamese culture first-hand. I hope to be able to learn more about the effects of climate change on Vietnam’s economy, environment, and community while there.


Mara Menahan

Mara Menahan

Hello! My name is Mara Menahan. I study climate change, geography, and environmental studies at the University of Montana. My interest in our changing environment grew with my love of Montana, a place my family has called home for generations. I am a visual thinker and hope to use art and illustration to solve environmental problems through communication and “ecological design.” While in Vietnam, I will be keeping an illustrated field journal to capture our experience. On campus, I have worked to demonstrate sustainable ways of living at the student-run Forum for Living With Appropriate Technology and I’ve had the incredible opportunity to study environmental change abroad as a UM delegate to the UN 2013 Climate Change Conference in Warsaw and a participant in the Bhutan Ride for Climate. I look forward to hearing stories of change from the Vietnamese!

Shannon James

Shannon James

I’m a senior studying Resource Conservation, Biology, and Climate Change Studies. I grew up backpacking and rafting throughout Montana and have recently been learning about the major threat climate change poses on the pristine environments I call home. I’m mostly interested in water management and policy issues and I’m excited to learn how Vietnam is adapting to the impacts of climate change. I have studied abroad in Tasmania, Australia and I’m looking forward to another experience of gaining knowledge and a new perspective while immersed in a different culture.


Blayne Metz

Blayne Metz

My name is Blayne Metz and I am a junior studying Political Science and minoring in Climate Change Studies. I intend to become involved in the global politics of climate change with particular emphasis on sustainability and supporting basic human rights. I am journeying to Vietnam because I want to expose and immerse myself in another culture while also studying, in my opinion, one of the most important issues that humanity will ever face–climate change. I hope to make connections and friendships that I will someday call on in my professional life. Also, this trip will allow me to understand climate change in a tangible sense in a world where the idea of climate change has been relatively intangible. I have done a lot of studying of the issue, but one can only learn so much in the classroom. As a mentor of mine once said: “There is no greater teacher than Professor Travel.”


Henry Ho

Henry Ho

I’m a junior at the University of Montana majoring in Political Science with an emphasis in International Relations. My goal is to learn from this experience, from the people around me, and from the environment. After my undergraduate degree, I hope to go into Law School to focus on International Law. When I first heard about the Vietnam program, I was excited about the possibility to adventure. Personally, I have a family in Vietnam and getting the chance to travel back to my roots and learning about the history, people, and environment is a valuable life experience. In the future, I want to travel around the world in order to focus on learning and helping the people, the culture, and its environment.


Saydrah Mallak

Saydrah Mallak

My name is Saydrah Mallak. I’m 26 years old, studying Resource Conservation at the University of Montana. I was born and raised in Billings, Montana and moved to Missoula to attend the University of Montana. I’m an avid hiker, rock climber, cross country skier and runner. I love being and doing anything outside. I’m very passionate about environment protection–the amount time I have spent being in the woods has made me realize how crucial it is to preserve it. The more I learn, the more passionate I am. I’m looking forward to Vietnam to learn about conservation methods and practices that help both adaption and mitigation of environmental impacts related to climate change.


Kyla Crisp

Kyla Crisp

My name is Kyla Crisp. I am from Helena, Montana and a senior studying Biology and Climate Change Studies at the University of Montana. While not in school I enjoy hiking, playing volleyball, and playing ultimate Frisbee. I am very excited to be going to Vietnam as it is my first trip out of the United States. I am very interested in actually seeing how climate change is affecting Vietnam, as opposed to just reading about it.


Hannah Tibke

Hannah Tibke

My name is Hannah Tibke. I was born and raised in North Dakota in the Mandan-Bismarck region. I am a sophomore at the University of Montana studying Wildlife Biology and minoring in climate change. I am really excited to experience Vietnam for the first time! I’m really curious to see how climate change has and will impact the Mekong Delta in the future. I love learning and adventuring, and so this trip seems like the perfect fit. In my free time I love to backpack, snowboard, explore, and almost anything else that is outside!


Sam Cheney

Sam Cheney

My name is Sam Cheney and I am from Belgrade, Montana. I am a journalism student at the University of Montana, with a focus on print and web. My travel experience is limited but I have traveled across the United States as well as Canada, France and Spain. I became interested in traveling to Vietnam by accident; I saw a flyer about it and knew how beautiful it was, and so I decided it was something I wanted to do. After learning more about it, I became even more excited because we will get to learn about the effects of climate change in an area that I think is very interesting.


Kelsie Crippen

My name is Kelsie Crippen and I am a senior political science major.  I am from Missoula, MT and I love it there, but I love to travel and I want to see the world.  This is my second stint studying abroad, my first time was in Patzcuaro, Mexico.  I am looking forward to learning about Vietnam, especially cultural and political issues that are tied into climate change and its consequences.

We also have three wonderful Vietnamese Teaching Assistants working with us: Nguyen Kim Dua (a veteran TA of five years now!), Phan My Duyen, and Nguyen Cam Dinh. Our TAs provide a critical link, helping to bridge cultural understandings, learning alongside our University of Montana students, and creating enduring friendships.


Nguyen Kim Dua

Hi! My name is Dua. My major was Biology Education Teacher. Right now, I am working at the Department of Biology, College of Natural Sciences, Can Tho University. I have been meeting UM groups since 2012. It was my first time to see and learn about climate change in my homeland. From that time, it has nurtured my love and passion for working in environmental issues. I have spent time with my 350 group in the Mekong Delta and the Environmental Club to make a little change day by day. We believe that many a little makes a nickle.  One of our favorite quotes is, “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, We borrow it from our children.” And I am veryyyy passionate about Plants. Welcome all of you to Vietnam!


Phan My Duyen

Greetings. My name is Duyen Phan and I am from Can Tho City, Viet Nam. Currently, I am a junior at Can Tho University pursuing a degree in International Business. Besides studying at school, I’m pretty fond of social activities such as teaching poor and disadvantaged children, visiting old lonely people as well as devoting blood. Thanks to these extra-curricular activities, I have learned a lot from the outside society to see how lucky am I and now it’s my turn to give back to my community. On top of that, I am also passionate about the environment including the flora and fauna as well as the ecosystem and how they interact with human beings. Being a part of this program enables me to explore the social, economic and environmental impacts of climate change in my own roots as well as learn how to adapt and mitigate such a phenomenon. These valuable experiences will not only broaden my knowledge but also engage responsibility of mine towards environment protection. I’m looking forward to seeing you all very soon.


Nguyen Cam Dinh

Xin chao (Hello)! My name is Dinh and I am a third year student majoring in Environmental Engineering. I was born in Ca Mau Province where you will have a two-day field trip to learn about the effects of climate change and their adaption. I was so fortunate to grow up in the countryside where I appreciate the beauty of nature. However, my hometown is facing affects that has changed our life. I have no longer seen my favourite plants. I am very excited to learn with you all for lectures and field trips in the next weeks. Welcome all of you to Vietnam!

3 responses

  1. Once again, I would like to congratulate all students and faculty staff on your trip to Vietnam: my former homeland, my constant concern and pride. I hope you have a good journey, learning opportunity and weeks of health. Look forward to hear your success stories. Bon voyage!

    December 21, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    • Thank you for your continued support and interest in our well-being. Your love and care for your country is so evident. I have been overwhelmed by the graciousness of our friends in Vietnam. We will look forward to you following along! Best wishes, Nicky

      December 21, 2014 at 8:06 pm

  2. Good luck to all of this year’s Vietnam travelers! I know you will have a wonderful experience and our friends in Vietnam will steal your hearts as they have stolen mine. Greetings to all our Can Tho University friends!

    December 21, 2014 at 8:44 pm

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