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

Vietnam 2012 Bios

Eight students from the University of Montana will be in Vietnam from December 28, 2011 – January 19, 2012 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

Nicky Phear 

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 Studies minor offers students a multidisciplinary understanding of climate change and involves them in developing solutions. She co-teaches the introductory Climate Change: Science and Society course and develops experiential learning opportunities for students through internships, practicums, and field courses. Nicky has led field-based climte change education programs in Bhutan, Vietnam, and Montana. She has an MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana and is pursuing a PhD through Prescott College in Sustainability Education.


My name is Justin Burns. I am 26 years old and a senior at the University of Montana, where I will graduate in May of 2012 with a major in Environmental Studies and a minor in Climate Change Studies. I am originally from Silverton, Oregon.  The opportunity to visit Vietnam with the University of Montana is an opportunity that I knew I wanted to take advantage of from the day I heard about it. I feel that visiting Vietnam to study abroad will expand my knowledge of climate change and lead me in a path to fulfill the goals I have set for myself in life. I believe that climate change is the most serious problem the world faces today. It wasn’t until my time at the University of Montana that I fully understood this, and now I am always interested in mitigation and adaptation ideas and always want to learn more about it. This study abroad opportunity aims to do exactly what I am looking for, which is expand my knowledge and experience of climate change in natural ecosystems with field based classes focusing on climate change and other issues.


Zach Brown is a junior studying environmental studies and climate change studies. Zach grew up hunting and fly fishing under the Big Sky of Montana, and these passions are what motivate his environmental work. He is most interested in water issues related to fisheries management, agricultural irrigation, riparian restoration, and municipal utilities. Someday he hopes to attend Law School so that he can work on water law in the western US. Zach loves a good adventure, and that is what first attracted him to Vietnam. However, he was sold on the idea by all that he heard about the wonderful people in SE Asia. In 2009, Zach attended the United Nations climate change negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark, so he has some experience with the international politics surrounding the issue of global climate change. He is very excited to bring that perspective to this group.



Maggie Matchett is a second year Pre-Pharmacy student at the University of Montana, hoping to apply for Pharmacy school next year. She is from Lewistown, Montana, and having spent the majority of her life in Montana, she is very excited to explore other parts of the world. Outside of the classroom, Maggie enjoys skiing, backpacking, painting, and photography. During UM’s Wintersession to Vietnam program, Maggie hopes to learn about the impact of rising seas on Vietnam’s wildlife and agriculture, as well as the attitude of the Vietnamese about climate change in comparison to Americans.






My name is Alyson Heare, but everyone calls me Aly. I am a sophomore at the University of Montana. I am undeclared for a major, but hope to find my direction while in pursuit of my minor in Climate Change Studies. When I first learned about the Vietnam Climate Change Program the gears started turning; that was almost a year ago. I’m excited to be immersed in Vietnam’s culture, history, and all together foreign world. While I will be missing out on treasured turns at Snowbowl (the local ski area in Missoula, Montana), I am so excited for the adventure ahead and the knowledge I will attain.




My name is Kyle Burke. I was born in Missoula, Montana and was raised just south of there in the Bitterroot Valley. I am currently a senior in History at the University of Montana. I am looking forward to my first visit to South East Asia and experiencing firsthand what I have only read about in books. I have heard nothing but amazing stories from many of my family members who have recently travelled to Vietnam and I hope to experience it for myself.





Anthony V. Hilario is a born and raised Montanan in his senior year at the University of Montana, where he studies Resource Conservation, with minors in Restoration Ecology and Climate Change Studies. He chose this line of studies because conservation, restoration, and climate change issues are of the most important facing the world today. His life’s goal is to play some role, no matter how minuscule, in the global solutions that must be found. When he is not trying to make his brain bigger, Anthony enjoys snowboarding, backpacking, rock climbing, and generally anything that makes his heart beat a little faster. Anthony chose the Vietnam Study Abroad program simply to travel to, and educate himself in a world that was completely foreign to everything he knew. In addition he also used the program as a gateway to stay and explore mainland Southeast Asia in the months following the trip.



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