Mansfield Center Hosts 250 MCPS Students in Innovation Conference

April 10, 2019

MISSOULA – The Mansfield Center at the University of Montana will host a new event on Monday, April 15, to encourage local high school students to innovate.

Mansfield Conference: InnovateHS will run from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on campus. Events will be centered in the University Center Ballroom, and a full schedule is online at

The major conference themes are imagination and problem-solving. Throughout the event, innovation will be discussed as the way in which to apply skills with creativity, collaboration and analysis to develop novel solutions to complex problems.

Among the many esteemed speakers will be Larry Simkins, CEO and president of The Washington Companies, and Mathew Wendell, IBM Global Garage leader. Mansfield Conference: InnovateHS also will offer students peer engagement and small group presentations by UM faculty.

The Mansfield Center and Missoula County Public Schools collaborated to design the conference to promote innovation and problem-solving skills among MCPS students and to show high school juniors a path toward postsecondary education at a two- or four-year college. Nearly 250 juniors from Missoula and Seeley-Swan high schools will attend. 

The students will actively participate in considering how innovation applies to their lives and to the issues that most concern them. Faculty sessions will include topics such as “Understanding Law, Civics and Politics,” led by Dr. Anthony Johnstone; “The Future of Work” with Dr. David Firth; and “Music as Persuasion,” led by Dr. James Randall.

The conference also is supported by the Innovation Factory at UM. Led by Elizabeth Dove and Bradley Allen, the Innovation Factory is a physical space in the University Center that fosters the innovative problem solving and design capabilities of UM students, faculty, staff and community members.

To provide an international component to the conference, MCPS students will engage with visiting State Department Fellows in the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI). These 21 visiting fellows from 10 countries across Southeast Asia will be matched with MCPS student groups to draw connections across cultures.

The Fellows are in Missoula for one month as part of a State Department exchange to foster mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries. The YSEALI program develops innovative ideas for tackling the greatest challenges of economic development, environmental protection, education and civic engagement.

InnovateHS has been scheduled in tandem with UM’s InnovateUM Conference to explore Missoula’s innovation landscape. Twenty-five MCPS students from Big Sky High School selected from the InnovateHS event will extend their learning at InnovateUM, presenting about their experiences and engaging in a bootcamp designed by Dr. Nicky Phear, director of UM’s Climate Change Studies program.

The Mansfield Center builds understanding among people and cultures, while fostering globally minded leaders of integrity in Montana and around the world. Interim Executive Director Deena Mansour said, “After more than 35 years of annual conferences, we are pleased to offer one specifically designed to support area high school students. InnovateHS is a unique opportunity to crystalize the Mansfield Center’s focus on youth, ethics and international engagement.”

“MCPS students live in a university town, and we are thrilled to find deeply engaging ways for them to interact with the exciting options that their futures hold post-graduation,” said MCPS Executive Regional Director Julie Robitaille. “Our students need to be prepared to solve problems and contribute to our thriving Missoula community. This conference is a great way to ensure our youth are prepared to innovate and engage outside the four walls of a classroom.”

For more information on InnovateHS, including a complete schedule, visit


Contact: Hatton Littman, MCPS director of communications, 728-2400 ext. 1024,; Deena Mansour, interim executive director, UM Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center, 406-274-0992,