We are shaped by the places we inhabit

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By BAY STEPHENS/Montana State News

The way humans change the places they inhabit has been a constant topic since the West began to be settled by Europeans. Towns were built, rivers were dammed, native tribes were pushed out. What tends to be thought of less is the inverse: how the environments we inhabit shape and mold us.

Each individual is shaped and molded by family, community, physical buildings and the wider landscape as a whole. All of these influences contribute to what Mark Hufstetler calls “a sense of place.”

Hufstetler is a historian and Montana adventurer who carries a sense of indomitable optimism. Despite being fresh off a four-hour drive from the Flathead region, he was chipper and conversational as the din and bustle of Bridger Brewing carried on around. The Acony Belles string trio playing bluegrass ballads behind him.

“It’s not necessarily always fashionable to say that you are a product of your environment,” he said between sips of his McTavish Scotch Ale, “but in a lot of ways, you really are.”

It can be seen in his own life. Born in Ogden, Utah, Hufstetler’s father worked for the Forest Service living mainly in Idaho and Wyoming. “I grew up in a series of small towns in the West, basically,” he said. More

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Long-time locals’ perspective on growth

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By BAY STEPHENS/Montana State News

Big country and little towns with skies that stretch from one eternity to the other: classic Montana. An element of legend and grit has swirled around the state since its inception. For those that have grown up here, the land and culture have changed, especially in a place like Bozeman.

Once a town to supply the surrounding ranch and farm communities, Bozeman became a place where cultures met: cowboy and ski culture, rustic and modern, and everything beyond and in between.

With a university to draw young students, it didn’t take long for the word to get out. Today, Bozeman – often referred to as the next Boulder, Colorado – faces dramatic change brought on by a burgeoning population and a nexus of interests and people.

Though change is not inherently bad, three generations of locals attest that Bozeman is not what it once was, in some ways for the better, yet, in other ways, elements have been lost. More

Teen rises above homelessness, addiction

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By VIRGINIA HOLST/Montana State News

Priding herself on six months of sobriety from all hard drug use, Ashley Grey Allsop is considered by her peers a success story, to say the least. If you’ve interacted with her, you may know her as the friendly face at McDonalds, or the helpful frequenter of the Warming Center.

I struggled to find an appropriate place and time in which to interview Allsop amidst all the bustle of the seasonal shelter, which is all too busy despite its outdated facilities. We attempted to step aside into one of the quieter but still in-use areas of the Warming Center.

I assumed Allsop would request some privacy before delving into my questions, but she unashamedly began, without asking the two other volunteers in that area to leave the room. Needless to say, we all got wrapped in her story relatively quickly, and soon, I wasn’t the only one asking questions. More

Depression poses unique challenges for student

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By TIM STOVER/Montana State News

Sadness feels like having a big black dog with you at all times. It’s overwhelming and hard to escape. According to Suzanne Johnson, a student at Montana State University, that’s what depression feels like. She used the World Health Organization’s YouTube video entitled “I had a black dog, his name was depression,” to describe sadness – a   clinical sadness. When asked what happiness felt like, she didn’t have an answer, at least for a couple hours.

We spoke on campus in the sub while having a bite to eat. Johnson wore jeans and a gray sweatshirt paired with Princess Leia like buns in her hair. She seemed happy.

The question she had the hardest time answering, “What is happiness,” took her a few hours to provide a response to. In the end, she concluded on “Happiness is like all of space rushing into you and filling you up. You feel complete.” More

Sports writer took unlikely route to career

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By JARED MILLER/Montana State News

Just a scant distance down I-90 midway between Missoula and Seattle sits a birthplace. Not only the birthplace of Washington’s Brian Scott but the place in which a very talented columnist was born. It was important to him that I use that term: columnist. “Not a reporter,” he stressed. And right there is where Scott’s story finds its core. A love for sports and a talent for writing met in the middle ground and that middle ground is where he resides today.

Picture a young boy watching the Seattle Mariners and trying his hardest to replicate the swing of the great Edgar Martinez. Or maybe imagine a college grad from Gonzaga entering the big bad, bad world of radio as an intern “playing the hits and poppin’ the zits,” as he put it. This is Scott. Sports and Washington are ingrained in him. It was the gift of writing, though, that would come later and ultimately define his career arc.

“I worked at a radio station during the early 90s,” Scott explained. “During my tenure there the AM station switched formats from old-school country music to an all sports format.” Bingo. The seeds of Scott’s career had been planted. More

Iranian student’s options limited by status

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By RANIA AMPNTEL CHAFINT/Montana State News

Christmas and Fourth of July are his favorite holidays. In the winter, he loves to hunt; in the summer, he loves to shoot. For Spring Break, he plans to fly to Massachusetts for a Metallica concert. Some say he holds all the qualities of a typical Montanan, but there is only one catch: He’s Iranian.

Wearing a green down jacket and a gray beanie, Arash Akbari introduced himself, “I’m 27 years old. I study mechanical engineering with a minor in physics.” In 2015, Arash moved to Bozeman, where, almost instantly after he arrived, he felt at home.

Walking inside the MSU library with Akbari  is never a short affair, as he stops to chat with people he knows. “I haven’t seen you in so long, man,” he said to his friend. “Let’s play soccer sometime.”

About 20 minutes later, after having visited with three friends, he went back to introducing himself: “I plan to study astrophysics in the future; I love astronomy,” he said with a smile. Akbari is bound to teach you about a star or two if you spend some time with him after sundown. More

Visiting prof seeks to boost diversity at MSU

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By BAY STEPHENS/Montana State News

“Growing up, I thought only Mexicans were poor,” Eric Lopez told an  University Montana State Latino Texts and Cinema class, “because I only saw poor Mexicans.” With kind eyes and a smile that melts a bad attitude, Lopez, 48, is a huggable guy, even in a suit. Though he can talk about himself and tell his own story with humor and verve, it’s easy to see that Lopez doesn’t derive his joy from self-focus. He is an encourager and a team player, of which his life and work bear the evidence.

Growing up the son of Mexican-American migrant workers, privileges such as college were not exactly expected. Lopez’ parents worked hard to put him and his brother through Catholic school, instead of the less sterling public schools. Though it was strange at some points— he jokes that he was “raised by a wild pack of Irish nuns” who taught him and his brother to say Spanish names wrong—their educators were far more tolerant of difference than in his parents’ day.

Lopez was the first in his family to go to college, not to mention get a master’s and Ph.D. in school psychology. Today he is the dean of the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M, San Antonio, his home city. More

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