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UM Responds to the Pandemic
Like many other places, the COVID-19 crisis unexpectedly and rapidly tore at the threads of what makes UM so distinctly special. As the pandemic hit UM, within a matter of weeks the University responded with courage, creativity and innovation. Like true Grizzlies, the UM family looked outward to those in need and responded across research, arts, equipment donations, revised programs and other deliverables. We’re proud to share a few of the many ways UM parlayed a challenge into a force for good.
Missoula College Preps Students, Donates Equipment
Missoula College rearranged schedules for classes and clinicals to move students into the area health care workforce as rapidly as possible. Many students in the Department of Health Professions, including nursing, respiratory care, medical assisting, surgical technology and radiology technology, completed their coursework and joined the health care field – before graduating. Additionally, MC’s Respiratory Care Program made available four ventilators (used for student training) to area hospitals. The Surgical Technology Program also donated nearly 1,000 masks, gloves and gowns to area health facilities.
UM Provides Emergency Business Assistance
Businesses impacted by COVID-19 had a single point of entry to assistance and expertise, thanks to UM’s new Business Emergency Assistance and Recovery (B.E.A.R.) program, which is powered by several UM programs. Within the first two weeks of its launch, the initiative helped more than 200 businesses through the Missoula Small Business Development Center, also hosted at UM, which helps businesses apply for loans. The Blackstone LaunchPad and Accelerate Montana Rural Innovation Initiative provided coaching to 25 entrepreneurs, as well as hosted live interviews and webinars with business owners, lawyers and other experts to share insights and expertise. UM sectors such as Accelerate Montana, Missoula College and the College of Business also were active with the Missoula County Economic Recovery Taskforce led by the Missoula Economic Partnership.
UM Affiliates Use 3D Printers for Mask Creation
SpectrUM and Flathead Lake Biological Station worked to supply medical masks for both Partners in Home Care in Missoula and Kalispell Regional Healthcare. Both UM affiliates used 3-D printers made from a design blueprint from the Montana Mask movement, which provides a free, open-source software file for a plastic, reusable face mask with a replaceable filter. UM’s Innovation Factory also used their equipment for N95 mask decontamination, respirator expansion, design and fabrication and face shield production.
Additionally, spectrUM organized more than 150 Monte Science Kits for families to engage in hands-on science in their homes. Activities included “Bending Water,” “Floating Paperclip” and “Make a Neuron.” The kits were delivered to the Missoula Food Bank and Community Center, where they were added to families’ groceries.
UM Mansfield Library and UM History Department Document the Times
UM’s Mike and Maureen Mansfield Library and the UM History Department partnered with the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, Heritage Missoula and other local businesses to create the “Documenting COVID-19 in Missoula County Community” archive. Knowing there will be an interest in stories and documentation from this historic time, the team of
UM faculty and Missoula County employees gathered material proactively and created the archive. The Mansfield Library also built a web submission form for individuals and organizations to submit images, video, personal stories and business continuity plans. Digital and physical contributions to this archive will be maintained by the library’s Archives and Special Collections.
New History Course Developed
Giving new meaning to living through history, UM History Professor Leif Fredrickson developed a new class titled “COVID-19 and History: Disease and Disaster in Perspective.” The class will explore how disease and disaster have shaped our past and present in a new online course offered this summer and fall semester by UM’s Department of History.
Professors Launch Happiness Idea Bank
UM Professors John and Rita Sommers-Flanagan launched “Happy Habits for Hard Times Series: An Idea Bank for Coping with COVID-19.” The series features an eight-module resource that incorporates blog posts, academic material, fun short videos and visual graphics to teach happiness and coping strategies. The classes are free and open to the public. Visit https://coehs.umt.edu/happy_habits_series_2020/.
UM Foundation Launches Emergency Fund for Students, and The Big Give
The UM Office for Student Success and the UM Foundation partnered to launch the UM Emergency Student Support Fund. Grants from the fund are made possible through generous donations from alumni and friends and provide critical aid for enrolled students who face unexpected financial hardship due to the coronavirus outbreak. Donors also joined forces during The Big Give, a two-week spring giving initiative promoted by the UM Foundation to inspire and positively impact students during this challenging time. Donations totaled nearly $100,000, and generous support continues. Additionally, the Associated Students of the UM contributed emergency support for students and the University Faculty Association also created a relief fund for students.