SpectrUM's Big Night Gala Raises $67,317, Celebrates Free Community Days, Award

June 22, 2015

MISSOULA – The University of Montana’s spectrUM Discovery Area will host one free Random Act of Community day each month, providing open access to its museum for all children and their families. The first Random Act of Community day will be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, June 25, at spectrUM’s museum, located at 218 E. Front St. in downtown Missoula.

The program, underwritten by Community Medical Center, is just one of several initiatives that will be funded thanks to money raised during spectrUM’s Big Night gala on June 12. CMC will fund the free museum days through January, and private donors at the gala pledged additional support to extend the program through May.

In total, the Big Night gala raised $67,317 for spectrUM’s Science for All Fund, which works to close opportunity and achievement gaps by ensuring all Montana children can access hands-on science and inspirational role models in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and higher education.

In recent years, the Science for All Fund has awarded $57,188 in scholarships to 10,127 low-income students, teamed up with the Missoula Food Bank to distribute free family memberships to its clients, placed a free “Nano” pop-up exhibit in the Missoula Public Library that reaches more than 300 visitors daily, supported mobile programming in Montana’s rural and tribal communities, and provided free spectrUM passes to the Boys and Girls Club, Full Circle Counseling, the YWCA and other organizations that serve low-income and at-risk youth.

During a surprise webcast at the gala, Ben Wiehe, manager of the Science Festival Alliance at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, announced spectrUM has received an award from the Simons Foundation honoring its community-based approach to STEM engagement, particularly its partnership with SciNation on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The award includes a $20,000 prize, and spectrUM will serve as a national model and mentor for science museums developing similar engagement programs.

Mayor John Engen emceed the live auction, which featured items donated by more than 50 local individuals, organizations and businesses, including MPG Ranch, the Resort at Paws Up, the Loft, Garden City Harvest, UM, Dr. Pete Chiropractic, Ric Hauer, Ray Risho, Coby and Melissa Stone, 12 Missoula restaurants and members of SciNation, spectrUM’s partner on the Flathead Reservation.

Big Night sponsors included Gravity Media Productions, Republic Services, Missoula Federal Credit Union, Carol Williams, 21st Century Materials, the Montana Institute on Ecosystems, Montana NSF EPSCoR, A&E Architects, SciNation, Montana ProAudio, UM’s Center for Structural and Functional Neuroscience, Beach Transportation and the Silk Road.

Inspiring a culture of learning and discovery for all, UM’s spectrUM Discovery Area is an interactive science center located in the heart of downtown Missoula. Through in-museum and mobile programs, spectrUM serves more than 50,000 Montanans annually. Its innovative, community-based approach to STEM engagement garnered honorable mention in the Noyce Foundation’s 2014 Bright Lights award competition.

Since 2006, spectrUM has transported exhibits and educators to 71 schools and public libraries in 29 Montana counties, including all seven American Indian reservations. In total, spectrUM’s mobile science program has served more than 51,000 people, of whom 30 percent are Native American and 75 percent live in rural communities. 

In Missoula, the public can visit spectrUM’s museum from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Admission costs $3.50 per person.

For more information call Holly Truitt, spectrUM director, at 406-243-4872 or email holly.truitt@umontana.edu.

Contact: Holly Truitt, spectrUM Discovery Area director, 406-243-4872, holly.truitt@umontana.edu.