Recent UM Graduate Wins Grand Prize in State Department Story Contest

February 22, 2017

Julie AmmonsMISSOULA – Julie Ammons, a 2016 University of Montana graduate and Missoula native, won a grand prize in the “Share Your Story Challenge” sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. She was selected as one of two grand-prize winners.

The “Share Your Story Challenge” asks participants to “share a brief, compelling personal narrative that demonstrates the benefits of international exchange and would inspire more people to go abroad.” It’s part of the 2016 U.S. Alumni Citizen Diplomacy Challenge, which invites U.S. alumni of state-sponsored programs “to play a role in encouraging more Americans to take advantage of these types of opportunities by telling the world about the innumerable benefits of international exchange.”

Ammons studied in Vladimir, Russia, with the Critical Language Scholarship Program this past summer. She graduated from UM in December 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Russian and a minor in history, and she is returning to Russia this spring with the American Councils Advanced Russian Language and Area Studies Program with a Title VIII Language Fellowship from the U.S. Department of State.

Through her participation in CLS, Ammons increased her Russian Oral Proficiency Interview score by three levels and had the “experience of a lifetime” sharing Russian poetry with new friends, peers, teachers and her host family.

Ammons plans to pursue graduate school for Russian language and literature. She is particularly interested in studying Russian identity concepts to improve international dialogue between Russians and Americans.

The grand-prize winners receive an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., for professional development opportunities in their area of interest. In addition, story challenge winners will have their work featured on the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs assistant secretary’s Huffington Post blog and on various State Department media channels.

Ammons’s story, which relates encounters with her Russian host-grandmother, is available at


Contact: Laure Pengelly Drake, coordinator for UM’s Writing Center, External Scholarships and Advising, 406-243-6140,; Julie Ammons, UM alumna,