Leadership program aims to guide Montana in future – Applications due March 29.

A collaboration of higher education, civic and business officials is putting together a program that will focus on leadership development and business and policy education in the state.

By MICK HOLIEN of the Missoulian

The Leadership Montana program will bring together people who "understand issues, are willing to listen to and learn from each other, celebrate cultural diversity and opinions and demonstrate a passion for the Last Best Place," reads the group’s mission statement.

"It’s something we’ve been working on for the better part of a year," said Bruce Whittenberg, executive director of the program. "Other states are doing things like this."

Members of the program’s Leadership and Organizing Committee visited a number of states that have reported success in similar ventures.

Montana’s program is fashioned after Leadership Wyoming, a program that Tom Scott, chairman of First Interstate BancSystem and a member of the Leadership and Organizing committee, had experience with.

"In time, the graduates of Leadership Montana can be a nucleus that will develop a mission for a Montana of which we can all be proud," Scott said.

The program has had significant effects in states where the effort is ongoing, Whittenberg said. In Wyoming, where the program is in its fourth year, eight new legislators have participated and a recent gubernatorial candidate also is a graduate.

"They’ve chosen to exercise their leadership through government," Whittenberg said.

This year’s session includes:

* Trusteeship and Montana history.

* Montana’s role in the nation’s defense; agriculture and food production.

* Education, economics and change.

* Natural resources, manufacturing and the environment.

* Economic opportunities east of the mountains.

* Government and public policy.

* Celebration of American Indian culture; health care, community service and quality of life.

* Goals, projects and the vision for the state.

Session issues will be changed from year-to-year as will the sites at which the meetings will be held.

This year sessions will be held in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Miles City and Missoula.

Applications for Leadership Montana are due March 29.

Tuition for the program, which runs for three days a month September through November and January through May, is $2,500.

"We will put every bit of that into delivering the program. It’s an expensive program to run," Whittenberg said. "If you look at it in the context of management development or executive training or even college education it’s a pretty reasonable tuition, I think, for the kind of program that they’re going to receive. It puts the pressure is on us to deliver the value."

Scholarships are available, some of which will be earmarked for specific segments of the population to encourage their participation.

There’s room for 40 participants.

A nonprofit venture, Leadership Montana is sponsored by the Montana Chamber of Commerce Foundation. A team of 27 organizations from around the state provides funding and guidance for the program, Whittenberg said.

Reporter Mick Holien can be reached at 523-5262 or at [email protected].

Leading the way

For more information about Leadership Montana visit the program’s Web site at or call Bruce Whittenberg, executive director, at (406) 896-5877. To contribute to the program e-mail [email protected]

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