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UM News
April 18, 2013


Montana economic leaders recently welcomed 10 economic empowerment professionals from Southeast Asia who are participating in the U.S. Department of State’s Professional Fellows Program. The Professional Fellows Program brings emerging leaders from around the world to the U.S. for intensive fellowships designed to broaden their professional expertise.

The program is arranged by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at The University of Montana, which will host the Fellows from Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam until May 12.

Montana organizations hosting Southeast Asian participants during April include businesses, government and nongovernment organizations, including John Balsam Associates, the Montana Department of Agriculture and the Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center. The Fellows arrived April 5.

Leslie Jensen, vice president of Missoula’s First Interstate Bank, currently hosts a director of an international bank in Burma.

“While my Fellow and I are from opposite sides of the globe, our desire is the same: to better empower the small businesses in our communities to thrive and grow,” Jensen said. “My hope is that the ripples formed by this wonderful opportunity for professional development help communities become more prosperous and regional economies more dynamic.”

The Professional Fellows Program supports international cooperation and builds networks of people and organizations working on critical issues worldwide. The Fellows help internationalize their U.S. host businesses and organizations. Alternately, the Montana leaders will travel to Southeast Asia to reinforce new partnerships and opportunities.

“In 2012, 22 Montanans participated in similar exchange with a focus on women’s empowerment,” said Deena Mansour, associate director of the Mansfield Center. “The program has proven to be a fantastic opportunity to expand global partnerships. The relationships established during the program continue to reap tangible benefits for communities throughout Montana.”

The Mansfield Center is one of 16 U.S.-based nonprofit organizations chosen this year to host foreign professionals from more than 40 countries and territories worldwide. The program culminates in a three-day Professional Fellows Congress, which will be held May 8-11 in Washington, D.C. During the event, participants will gather to design real-world solutions and projects they can implement in their home communities and institutions.

The Mansfield Center at UM promotes better understanding of Asia, U.S. relations with Asia and ethics in public affairs in the spirit of former U.S. Sen. Mike Mansfield and his wife Maureen. The center houses programs that focus on peoples and cultures of modern Asia and ethics in public affairs, the core interests and hallmarks of Sen. Mansfield’s career.         

In fall 2013, new Montana organizations will host the next group of 10 Southeast Asian Fellows. For more information visit and


NOTE TO MEDIA: A story about UM and the Professional Fellows Program is on pages 28-29 of the April issue of State Magazine:


Local, AP


Contact: Kelsey Stamm, project manager, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at UM, 406-243-2838,