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Montana State students to participate in Baucus Leaders program


BOZEMAN — In a boardroom on the Montana State University campus, Max Baucus, the longest serving U.S. senator from Montana and former U.S. ambassador to China, encouraged a group of students to get out of their comfort zones and explore the world, while providing them with opportunities to gain experience in public service this summer.

Eight MSU students were selected as members of the Baucus Leaders Class of 2024, a program of the Max S. Baucus Institute designed to give college students experience in public service and legislative affairs. They will be stationed in various parts of the world for internships focusing on legislation and climate policies.

During the boardroom lunch this spring semester, Baucus, who founded the Institute, advised the students on how to grow their networks and make the most of their internships. He also encouraged them to engage in public service.

“It’s for the public good,” Baucus said. “It’s very rewarding.”

Anisten Shute, a finance major from Bozeman, will spend the summer working in Washington, D.C., in the office of Sen. Steve Daines. She is looking forward to meeting constituents and attending events in the nation’s capital before enrolling in law school after graduating from MSU.

“I’ve never really gone anywhere on my own, so I think it will be a good experience to be alone in a bigger city and experience a different lifestyle,” she said.

Estrella Pallis-Bonadurer, who is from Missoula and studying in the MSU Honors College, will be serving in the office of Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York.

Chidimma Ifeh, an MSU graduate student studying sustainable food systems, will be working with the Climate Reality Project in D.C.

“I was drawn to be a Climate Scholar to create an impact by promoting practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance resilience to climate change,” she said. “As a sustainable food systems student, I believe diversity in crop varieties and agricultural practices is vital for resilience and solutions to nourish the planet and people.”

Garrett Wright, a political science major from Bozeman who is also minoring in China studies and international business, will spend his summer in Big Sky, working with the Big Sky Sustainability Network. He will be working on the town’s greenhouse gas inventory report to figure out the metric tons of carbon Big Sky produces annually.

“I’m really excited for the opportunity to use things I’ve learned at Montana State, both in class and while working with the Office of Sustainability and apply those things to the local community of southwest Montana,” he said.

Kyle Schaniel, a snow and environmental sciences major from Bishop, California, will be working mostly remote for The Climate Initiative, which is based in Maine. He’ll be writing and revising learning labs and online lesson plans about various environmental topics for high school students.

“I’m looking forward to working with people who are inspired and knowledgeable about climate and teaching it to others,” he said. “I’m really stoked to help spread this info that I learned in high school and at MSU to high schoolers because I think it’s really important.”

Jackson Mundell, an environmental science major from Parker, Colorado, is on his second stint with the Baucus Institute. Last summer he said he developed various skills while stationed in China. This year he is heading to Singapore to work with the Nature Conservancy to research climate solutions implemented by the Asian country as it attempts to cut its emissions to net zero by 2040.  Jackson’s goal is to identify climate strategies that could be effective in Montana.

“I think it’s important for a lot of students to understand the intersection between the government, policy issues and real life,” he said. “In this instance it’s climate change.”

Rosamarie Roccisano, a biological engineering student from Billings, is heading to Skokie, Illinois, this summer for a finance internship focused on strategic analysis with LanzaTech, a company focused on carbon recycling.

“I’m really excited for the opportunity to get to work somewhere that is not Montana and for the opportunity to interact with sustainability professionals,” she said. “It’s clear that the way we talk about climate in different regions of the country is very different, and it’s exciting to learn about.”

Damaris Addy, a business major from Bozeman, will spend this summer working with the Montana Nonprofit Association.

Throughout the summer the cohort of students will meet virtually to share their experiences and support each other. Students interested in future internships with the Baucus Institute can learn more information about the program and apply at

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