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

Vietnam 2016 Bios

Seventeen students and one professor from the University of Montana will be in Vietnam from December 28, 2016 – January 20, 2016 for the sixth 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.

SpencerPhotoDan 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 led the 2013 and 2014 UM Vietnam classes for our four weeks together in Vietnam. He is delighted to be able to return to Vietnam to study the effects of climate change on the Mekong Delta with this year’s group.

Hi everyone!  My name is Alix Alway, and I am a second year graduate student in the environmental studies department at the University of Montana.  AlixAlwayBlogPhotoMy focus area is environmental education, and in the summers I love playing in the mountains and leading extended backpacking and outdoor education trips for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).  In addition to education, I am also interested in issues of health and medicine.  I am a wilderness EMT and hope to eventually become a pediatric nurse.  I love exploring new places, and I am so excited to visit Asia for the first time!!!

Hi, I’m Paul Edlund! I am a Minnesota native who decided the Midwest was too boring and decided to make some adventures here in Missoula, Montana. PaulEdlundBlogPhotoI am an EVST student minoring in Climate Change Studies. I’m in my second year of school at UM and am taking my exploration across the ocean.  This study abroad program will be my first trip across the Pacific. I am most excited to learn about climate change firsthand from those who it is affecting. Hopefully this class will be an opportunity to understand the realities of climate change without reading about it in a text book.  When I am not studying or working at the desk, I like to ride my bike and goof off with friends.

I am Hannah Fatland from Condon Oregon. HannahFatlandBlogPhotoThis is my third year at the University of Montana and I am in the Environmental Studies program. I plan to incorporate this degree with clothing design and production, to create sustainable fashions. In Vietnam I hope to gain a better understanding of how climate change is directly effecting the country and how the people are adapting to the changes. I am also excited to experience a very different culture and appreciate a whole other part of our world.

AileenFunkBlogPhotoMy name is Aileen Funk and I was born and raised in Juneau Alaska. I am a third year student in the environmental studies program at UM. I am extremely excited to be apart of the 2016 Vietnam study abroad program and look forward to learning about the culture, economy and ecology of the Mekong Delta region. My travels as of yet, have not taken me out of North America, so this trip to Vietnam will be like nothing that I have ever before experienced.

Courtney Gerard is an environmental journalism graduate student from California. A lover of all things aquatic, her insatiable interest in the effects of global warming on oceans and sea level rise lCourtneyGerardBlogPhotoed her to study in Vietnam. While abroad she hopes to explore the physiological and cultural effects of our changing climate on developing countries through the lens of her camera and the stories of the Vietnamese people. When she isn’t reporting you can find her bagging peaks, playing in oceans and rivers, rock climbing, running through the forest or cooking up a meal fit for a queen.

Greetings, blog readers. My name is Katy Hopkins. I enjoy such activities as: watercolor painting a variety of objects inside jars, KatyHopkinsBlogPhotowriting letters, and pretending that it is Christmas in July. I am an Environmental Studies major and a Climate Change Studies minor. Thus, I am going to Vietnam because I know I will scare myself into taking more action to mitigate climate change, and also because no one in my family has ever traveled to another continent. Not that it was a race, but I won.

Hello out there to all you inquisitive, avid, and wonderful blog readers! My name is Roy Hopkins, royHopkinsblogphotoand I am a third year undergred student majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in English. Born and raised near Reading, PA, I moved to Missoula, MT, on two fronts: to complete my college education at the University of Montana, and to find refuge from the growing skirts of Eastern suburbia into the most alien of places I could find; the public wildernesses of the American Northwest. I have a passion for people and their relationships not only to their identities, but the societies they in participate, and the environment that surrounds them. How does growth affect one’s culture? Lifestyle? The natural landscape that surrounds them? Do different cultures have different patterns of growth? Or is growth what sets the pattern for culture? While my (most notable) hobbies mostly consist of binging documentaries, people watching, and petting everyone’s dogs, I’d like to better focus my studies and habits to be more in tune with a bigger picture. Global Warming is one of those big pictures, and an incredibly worrying one at that. I’ve visited East Asia on several occasions to visit family members in the Philippines. After Typhoon Haiyan hit and many of my family members lost their homes in Leyte to floods, I found myself more distraught about Global Warming in a single night than any of my professors could accomplish. Vietnam is somewhere I want to visit because of how unique it is to my current experiences–Vietnam is a socialist country that’s rapidly growing, challenging the rural lifestyles and native wildlife pitted at odds with this growth. In addition, it’s low sea level and geographic location call for some very creative solutions to the resilience not just of Vietnam’s economy, but the people themselves.

Rebecca Keith: After six hours in a car and 19 hours on a plane, I finally landed in Vietnam only to remember that I don’t like humidity, rice, or crowds. But, I am optimistic. my whole life has been spent in that awkward in-between place of being uncomfortable yet excited about new experiences. I lived in seven different cities and five states before my parents settled in Bend, OR, a month before I left for college at the University of Montana in Missoula, where I am now a sophomore. RebeccaKeithBlogPhotoWe lived in a tent in Oregon for six weeks before we found a house. My restless childhood has given me a desire to travel and a sense of adventure. Journalism is the path I chose to this lifestyle. In addition to journalism, I am also pursuing minors in climate change and astronomy. I want my career to be centered on science and the way media reports scientific events and information. Writing for a magazine such as National Geographic is my ultimate goal. Vietnam is an ideal trip for me because it gives me the chance to study the science of climate change and how it is communicated in a world that is much more restricted and controlled than the US.

LeahLynchBlogPhotoHi! My name is Leah Lynch and I am a senior at UM with a major in Environmental Studies and a minor in Climate Change. Excitedly enough, my adventures abroad in Vietnam will be the close to my college career! I thoroughly enjoy travel, skiing and any outdoor sports activity, I am a true New Englander coming from Rhode Island with a deep love of seafood. UM became my choice for school by closing my eyes and pointing on a map (part of life’s adventure!) and it has been the best experience. My passion for the environment and sustainability have grown substantially in my years studying at UM. I look forward to in my experiences abroad, due to the growing population and development of Vietnam as a country, that I will be able to see a deep correlation between the environment and overpopulation. I am excited for all the opportunities ahead!

Boozhoo/Tahnsi-Kiyahw (Hello)!  My name is Antonio Morsette. AntonioMorsetteBlogPhotoI am currently in my fourth year perusing a double Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Art at the University of Montana, Missoula. Traveling to Vietnam is going to be a great experience! I look forward to being introduced to a new language, new culture, new foods, learning directions to different places, being encouraged to make friends, and doing things that I wouldn’t normally do! I know the world is a big place and no two places are the same. I also know climate change is all around us; and with the help of this trip, I can further understand different places around the world and see how they are adapting to these changes.

My name is Ryan Alexander Payne and I am originally from South Carolina.  I just finished law school and will soon finish my MBA as part of the joint JD/MBA program at the University of Montana.  RyanPayneBlogPhotoHaving grown up in coastal South Carolina and spent a great deal of time in Southeast Asia, I find the affects of climate change to be most evident in such places.  I am interested in the role of government and private industry in both causing and mitigating climate change in Vietnam.  I am also very excited to learn about the complex history the United States has had with Vietnam from a new perspective — that of Vietnam.

My name is Ransome Probert and I am an Earth enthusiast! I am a junior at the University of Montana working towards my Bachelors in Organismal Biology and double minoring in Biological Anthropology and Climate Change Studies. Although I am from Southeast Idaho, I call Alaska my home. RansomeProbertBlogPhotoWhile living in Alaska, I developed a newly-enhanced love for studying ecosystems and how they function. Since then, I have been working towards my goal of gaining new perspectives on solving ecological problems in the midst of climate change. What better way to achieve my goal than to travel to Vietnam!? I am thrilled to have been given the chance to travel to such a luscious country rich with life. As human beings, I feel it is our responsibility to work together to manage climate change. In the words of Henry Ford, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” I feel that with our long history with Vietnam, we as students are being given the opportunity to be a part of something that is much bigger than just earning a degree, we are enhancing a very fruitful relationship. I couldn’t be more pleased.

Hello, my name is Nat Smith. I grew up in Moab, Utah and I’m currently a sophomore at the University of Montana. I am majoring in Creative Writing with minors in Arabic and International Development Studies. NatSmithVietnamBlog intro picI have loved backpacking, rafting, skiing, and wildlife watching since I was a child. My enjoyment of outdoor activities led to my belief that climate change is the largest challenge facing our generation. When I discovered the opportunity to travel to Vietnam and see the problems associated with global warming firsthand and learn about what we can do to solve those issues I realized I had to jump on board. I know that the conservation and restoration efforts I will study in Vietnam will positively inform my writing and activism in a way no other experience could.

Hi, my name is Peter Sokol and I am a senior in the Parks department with my minor in Climate Change. I have been working my whole life with plants and hope to become involved with the National Parks after PeterSokolBlogPhotoI graduate. However, I want to go to Vietnam because I love to travel and hope that in the future my career takes me all around the world to study and help protect our wild areas. Other then Wilderness I love to create music and writing. I can’t wait for the chance to explore the Vietnamese culture, especially in trying their delicious food!

Kym Sutton is from Edmonds, Washington but has lived in Missoula, Montana for the last year and a half. She is a junior at University of Montana who is studying for an Ecology and Organismal Biology major with a Climate Change minor. KymSuttonBlogPhotoShe currently is focusing on human impacts on ecosystems as well as environmental education. In Kym’s natural habitat one can find her hiking, skiing, trail running, learning to rock climb, doodling, swing dancing or just napping in front of a television. Vietnam presents an exciting new adventure for her to broaden her perspectives and skills.  She claims she is “pretty ecstatic to go on this trip and to experience a new culture and unfamiliar ecosystems.

SophieTsairisBlogPhotoSophie Tsairis is a graduate student at the University of Montana in the Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism program. Sophie moved west to the Rocky Mountains after graduating from Kenyon College, to pursue her love for the outdoors and report on environmental issues. Sophie loves to travel and is excited to experience new places and cultures in Vietnam while learning about some of the environmental issues the country is experiencing.

Hi! My name is Cassidy White and I was born and raised in North Branch, Minnesota. I currently live in Missoula, however, and attend the University of Montana where I am majoring in envrionmental science with minors in both ecological restoration and international development. To tell you a bit about myself, CassidyWhiteBlogPhotoI love the outdoors and all outdoor activities including but not limited to kayaking, hiking, camping/backpacking, four-wheeling, swimming, and rock-climbing. I am also very passionate about sports. I was in dance for fifteen years, softball for eight, and track and cross country for four and I remain an avid runner. I also continue to practice dance, although now I am learning social dances. Other passions of mine include reading, writing, listening to music, singing, and spending time with friends and family. I am traveling with Dan’s class to Vietnam in hopes that I will gain valuable insights from indulging in a foreign culture and exploring climate change in an out-of-classroom environment. I am looking forward to the experiences to be had, sights to be seen, and friendships to be made while in Vietnam!

We’ll also be joined by Hannah Fatland and Becca Keith  — stay tuned for more information on them!