UM Graduates Earn Fulbright Scholarships

May 14, 2015

MISSOULA – University of Montana graduates Ryan Bell, Brinna Boettger and Dylan Gomes recently received Fulbright Scholarship award notifications for the coming year.

Bell, of Seattle, earned his M.F.A. in nonfiction creative writing from UM in 2014. He was awarded a coveted Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship. Bell will serve as one of five Fellows, selected out of a pool of more than 400 applicants, who will undertake an in-depth research project on a globally relevant issue, comparing and contrasting how it is experienced across borders. The Fellows host a blog on National Geographic’s website and have the possibility of contributing work to National Geographic’s print publications such as National Geographic, NG Traveler and NG History.

“My project is called ‘Raising the Steaks,’” Bell said. “I will examine how Russia and Kazakhstan are rebuilding their cattle industries in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse. They’re doing so with a surprising source of help: cattle and cowboys from America.” 

Beginning this fall, Bell will spend nine months traveling through rural Russia and Kazakhstan documenting the resurgence of a pastoral way of life that was nearly decimated under the Soviet Union. 

“What writer doesn’t dream of working for National Geographic? Even better, I get to do so through the auspices of the Fulbright Program,” Bell said. “This Fellowship will make it possible to complete a five-year research project about Russia’s cattle industry in the post-Soviet era. I'm particularly excited to build on work that I completed as an M.F.A. student at the University of Montana, and present it to the National Geographic Society’s international audience.”

Boettger, from Lewistown, graduated from UM in 2013 with degrees in Russian and English. She earned a prestigious English Teaching Assistant Fulbright Scholarship, which places recent college graduates and young professionals overseas as English teaching assistants in primary, secondary schools or universities overseas. The award will cover travel expenses, room and board, health insurance and incidental costs.

The program aims to improve foreign students’ English language abilities and knowledge of the United States while increasing the U.S. students’ own language skills and knowledge of the host country.

“I am very honored to have received the Fulbright Scholarship and to have the opportunity to represent the United States and Montana in Belarus,” Boettger said. “I am looking forward to broadening my understanding of Slavic culture and the Russian language while imparting my knowledge of American culture and the English language.”  

Before departing for Belarus, Boettger will attend a pre-departure orientation in Washington, D.C., and then will serve as a teaching assistant for nine months. While working in Belarus, Boettger also will work on a supplementary project.

“For my supplementary project, I proposed developing the role of service animals in Belarus,” Boettger said.

Gomes, from Fort Bragg, California, graduated from UM in 2014 with a biology degree. He earned a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant to study bats at the Max Planck Institutes in Germany. 

Gomes is one of more than 1,900 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the 2015-2016 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential.

Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in more than 160 countries worldwide.

To learn more about the Fulbright Program, visit

Students interested in submitting a proposal can call UM Fulbright Program Adviser Liz Ametsbichler at 406-243-5001 or email


Note to the media: To interview Ryan Bell, call 406-579-2030 or email To interview Brinna Boettger, call 406-366-4157 after Saturday, May 16, or email To interview Dylan Gomes, email

Contact: Liz Ametsbichler, UM Student Fulbright Program adviser, 406-243-5001,; Clint Walker, associate professor of Russian, UM Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures, 406-243-2501,