Montana Journalism Graduate Students and Alumni Send Ripples With Podcasts, Photography and Documentaries


Rising around the University of Montana are a series of low mountains etched with subtle benches that catch the snow and create shadowy rings around the sprawling valley. These are the beaches of glacial lake Missoula, a colossal catchment that formed 10,000 years ago behind massive ice dams. The lake filled, then collapsed with such energy that it shaped the landscape from western Montana, through the Columbia River Gorge to the sea.

Each year, we refill our program with graduate students who arrive from across the country to study Natural Resource and Environmental Science journalism in the heart of where it happens. The mountains and valleys of Western Montana are our laboratories and the people who live here are guides in the stories they share.

The Feb. 15 deadline for priority application consideration just closed and those applicants should expect to hear their admissions status by early March. But we take pride in developing a cohort of students who both push and support each other, and so we continue taking applications until April 15 for students wishing to start Fall 2019. (The difference between the pools is the priority distribution of financial aid and teaching assistantships.) (Click here for more information on how to apply.)

Current students and recent alumni of the journalism graduate program have been busy in the last year building their potential and letting their impact ripple through journalism both close to home and to distant shores.

With the help of the Greater Montana Foundation, videographers have been tackling issues that bring science, the environment and public health together in important ways. Film maker Henry Worobec ’18’s Confluir, an exploration of threats and opportunities along the Rio Marañón, Amazon’s main stem, has been making the rounds at film festivals.

Trailer- CONFLUIR, a Study of Rio Marañón from Henry Worobec on Vimeo.

Jamie Drysdale ’18 will premiere heart-wrenching film Lethal Control at the 2019 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon on March 2. The film examines the use of cyanide poison as a coyote control in Idaho and Wyoming.


Radio reporter Nicky Ouellet ’16 and a team of audio reporters won a silver medal at the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards for SubSurface, a podcast about the threat invasive mussels pose to Montana’s lakes and fisheries. This top international science journalism award recognizes outstanding work done to promote a public understanding of scientific work. Follow her on Instagram @o.nicky.


Nora Saks ’16, a member of the SubSurface team, is about to let loose a podcast of her own. Sincegraduation, Saks has worked for Montana Public Radio covering environmental issues in Butte, Montana. As she reported the daily efforts to improve conditions at one of the country’s largest Superfund sites, she has been gathering tape for a podcast of her own. Listen for Richest Hill at or wherever you get your podcasts. Follow Nora on Instagram @nrvsaks.

Writer Will Grant ‘10 continues chasing adventure with both harrowing and hilarious results. A Colorado cowboy and master of the long narrative, Will raced in the world’s hardest horse race in 2013 and wrote a feature story about the experience for Outside Magazine. Now he appears in All the Wild Horses, a new documentary about the race: “Every time you work with horses, especially wild horses like this, you can get hurt very badly,” he says, stating what becomes obvious in the trailer. Since 2013, he has ridden the Pony Express trail, sailed the eastern seaboard in autumn and participated in Team USA Kok Boru, that horseback contest played with a dead goat. Follow him on Instagram @willgrantofthewest

Writer Heather Fraley ‘18 took to the field this fall to profile a UM program that shows new hunters the ropes and helps ensure their first outing is successful – whether they bring game home or not.

Current students may not be done calling Missoula home quite yet, but they’re creating ripples of their own.

Screen Shot 2019-02-20 at 12.06.22 PMWriter Samantha Weber and videographer Mikensi Romersa traveled to South Korea over the summer as part of UM’s International Reporting class. They produced stories for Atlantic Magazine’s CityLab, including this piece on the disoriented life of North Korean defectors.

Back on the ranch, Weber has focused her reporting on a number of stories about self-directed solutions on the Blackfeet Reservation. One, about eco-tourism, reflects the work she did with mentor Graham Lee Brewer as a Crown Reporting Project winner. That piece is slated to appear in High Country News.

Photo by Samatha Weber.

Photographer Louise Johns has been scooping up freelance work while finishing her first-year coursework. Although her projects focus on ranch life, bison restoration and wide open spaces, when The New York Times came calling last week, she changed gears to take a portrait for a story on changing feelings about pregnancy.

Looking ahead, instructor Jeff Gailus will lead the Montana Journalism Abroad this summer on a deep dive into our own backyard. Gailus, an accomplished writer and native of Calgary, will lead a reporting trip focused on energy development and the environment in Western Canada.