Community-engaged And Transformational Scholarship Initiative

Logo CATS Community-engaged and Transformational Scholarship

CATS is an initiative to facilitate large-scale meaningful and impactful partnerships between Montana State University and surrounding communities through course-based project collaborations.

Graphic depicting iconic buildings for Bozeman,MT and Montana state University. Hotel Baxter, Water Tower, Library, Romney Gym. BrickBreerden Fieldhouse, Montana Hall

The initiative delivers a simple model to:
• Match community identified needs and community driven projects to university capacity and expertise
• Magnify engagement of students and faculty across departments and disciplines
• Work within existing institutional structures using an “opt-in” framework for engagement
• Afford students with valuable opportunities to apply skills in real contexts while making positive impacts in their communities
• Provide access to new ideas, energy, and university capacity to local partners to solve pressing community-based needs



Example Community Needs/Goals:

  Identify effective public
    engagement tools 
Assure water quality and conservation 
Address climate change resiliency 
Support community health and wellness 
Develop safe routes to school 
Manage congestion/promote alternative
   transportation modes
Create community through arts,
   culture, and placemaking 
Assess and enhance accessibility 
Promote local producers/
   economic development 
Ensure affordable housing stock

Decorative Graphics depicting community needs and university expertise e.g. community engagement, Resisalence to weather, safe routes to schools, art, culture, increased manufacturing, affordable housing. Planning, education, economics, architecture



University Expertise

 Business  Environmental Science
Community Health Planning
Environmental Health Art
Economics Landscape Design
Education Architecture
Geography Sociology
Public Administration
Sustainable Food Systems
Health and Human Development
Engineering and Computer Science
Marketing and Communications

How it works:

A CATS coordinator works with interested cities, towns, counties, or other community entities and university faculty to match multidisciplinary project-based courses to a set of community-identified needs over an academic year. The partnerships require submission of proposed projects and commitments for coordination, project management assistance, and resources required to ensure successful project outcomes.   


Susan Gallagher,
Western Transportation Institute

• Ph: 406-994-6559       

• Email: sgallagher AT

View a pdf of the
CATS Initiative overview,
or the
2018-2019 CATS Project Partnerships


 Spring Communities propose project list
 Spring/Summer CATS works with community partner to match proposed projects to courses 
 Semester start Kick-off event
 Fall Fall semester coursework
 Spring Spring semester coursework
 End of Spring term End of year event presentation & delivery of final deliverables                   


Project Partnership

CATS initiated a 3-year partnership under a standing MOU with the City of Bozeman through Spring semester 2021. The Downtown Bozeman Partnership joined as a partner in 2020.  To see proposed projects from partners for the 2020-2021 academic year: AY20-21-CATS-Project-Proposal-Summaries

To date the collaboration has engaged 140 students from 9 different academic disciplines
across 4 colleges in addressing local community needs and concerns.

Logo Montan State University (MSU) and Western Transportation Institute (WTI)
Logo City ob Bozeman, MT

2018-2019 Course Projects

Public Art Map Web Overlay

Screen capture of Bozeman, MT Planning GIS page showing locations of public art

• Geography 358: GPS Mapping Service Learning
• City of Bozeman GIS Department
The City of Bozeman envisions a creative, learning culture through, among other things, support for public art. Working with City GIS staff, students in a senior level GIS course gathered the clean spatial data needed to add public art installations around town as a layer on the City’s public interactive mapping application, allowing members of the public to explore public art installation locations.

To view public art installations on Bozeman City’s Community Development Viewer, go to 
click on the Public Art Layer.

Accessory Dwelling Unit Design

Thumbnail of video asking,

• Architecture 451: Design for Community
• City of Bozeman Planning & Community
   Development Division
Bozeman’s rapid growth has led to a shortage in housing, and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) such as apartments over garages can provide expanded options. Working with Bozeman Community Development staff, Architecture students developed multiple ADU design options and models, construction documents and cost estimates, and information resources for community members interested in adding an ADU to their property to assist them in getting started.

View an informational video about the project and the guidelines produced:

Public Education on Street Design for Traffic Calming & Safety

Image collate #1 Temporary pop-up roundabout installation #2 Students discuss mockup of traffic calming installation

• Education 588: Science Assessment Principles
• City of Bozeman Neighborhoods Office
Bozeman is encouraging neighborhood-based efforts to address traffic safety concerns by supporting the installation of low-cost temporary traffic calming projects. Secondary school teachers enrolled in an MSU graduate education course assisted the City in adding to its public outreach and awareness materials on traffic calming strategies by developing lesson plans that can be implemented in STEM classrooms at the middle school level.

Lesson Plans:


Visual Media to Promote Fire Safety Awareness & Education

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Emergency vehicles have the right of way! Please pull to the right when lights and sirens approach. Bozeman Fire Thanks You!

• Film 301: Issues in Lens-Based Media
• City of Bozeman Fire Chief
MSU film students developed visual media to improve fire and accident prevention awareness among Bozeman community members, working with the Bozeman Fire Department to capture local footage that is relevant and recognizable to our community. 


EJ HANSON Smoke Alarm

EJ HANSON Emergency Preparedness

SAM OVERTURF Sprinkler Safety

THOMAS McGUANE Pull To The Right For EMS

Environmental Health Issues for Students Living in Off-campus Housing

Student presents poster at university research event

• BIOM 210: Principles of Environmental Health Science
• City of Bozeman Neighborhoods Office
The tight housing market in Bozeman and lack of adequate literacy about environmental health issues associated with independent living put students at potential risk. Students in this course researched and documented a variety of environmental health issues related to off-campus housing for compilation into information resources for student renters.

Student posters:

Urban Design Manual Inputs

Thumbnail: Report covers for urban planning

• Geography 520: Land Use Planning
• City of Bozeman Planning Department
Students explored urban design theories and trends in conjunction with Bozeman’s Municipal Code to identify potential applications for inclusion in an Urban Design Manual.

Student reports:

Complete Street Design

Report cover showing improved street environment. Text A redesign of College Street between 8th Avenue & 11th Avenue. A Tiered-Solutions Approach

• Honors 494: Design Thinking for the Community
• City of Bozeman Neighborhoods Office
Students engaged student and local business stakeholders to develop streetscape designs for College St. between 8th and 11th to improve biker and pedestrian safety. Students explored the potential for a design prototype to be deployed and tested as a temporary pop-up traffic calming demonstration project.

Student report :

Spring 2020 Course Projects

Urban Design Manual Inputs


Student manual entry to manual• Geography 365: Geographical Planning
• City of Bozeman Planning Department

The City of Bozeman plans to develop an Urban Design Manual interactive website. The manual is meant to be an easy and graphically pleasing explanation of Bozeman’s form-based codes. Students assisted in this process by concisely describing various codes, their requirements, purpose and intent, and how they fit with Bozeman’s Community or Strategic Plans.

Student Urban Manual Design inputs:

Stormwater Pipe Rehabilitation Feasibility Study

• Environmental Engineering 436: Stormwater Management & EngineeringPhoto of pipe rehabilitation with shotcrete
• City of Bozeman Stormwater Program

The project engaged students in providing technical guidance and feasibility analysis for alternative pipe rehabilitation strategies to inform two unique projects: 1) the downtown trunk line rehabilitation project; and 2) the South Willson Avenue pipe rehabilitation project.  Both projects required an analysis of suitable rehabilitation options to extend the system’s lifecycle by 50-75 years with minimal disturbance to adjacent properties, utilities and roads.

Project Team #1 Report: Technical Memo 1

Project Team #2 Report: Technical Memo 2

Decentralized Stormwater Facilities Assessment Tool and Implementation Plan

Environmental Engineering 436: Stormwater Management & EngineeringPhoto of a clogged stormwater inlet facility
City of Bozeman Stormwater Program

The City of Bozeman is seeking to improve its condition assessment efforts of privately or HOA-owned engineered stormwater facilities through the development of a data-driven inspection tool to quantitatively assess the current status of facilities and determine maintenance needs.  The project engaged students in developing a quantitative condition assessment protocol and rating system. 

Stormwater Facility Inspection Proposal: HOA Stormwater Facility Inspection Proposal

Stormwater Management Assessment Memo: HOA Memo 

Snowplow Route Optimization

snowy streetIndustrial & Management Systems Engineering 499: Design Capstone
City of Bozeman Streets Department

The City of Bozeman faces a significant challenge every winter in keeping city roads clear of snow and ice.  Over the years, as the city has grown, so has the amount of snow plowing. Routes have been added and expanded to meet the growth.  But currently, the Bozeman Street Department is not sure that the routes in use are optimal.  The project developed a simulation model that incorporated the variability of different snow amounts, traffic congestion, and other uncertainties to develop optimized snow routes for the priority snow removal streets.

Student project report:

Snow Plow Route Optimization Report

Student project presentation:

Snow Plow Route Optimization Presentation

Bozeman Parks and Trails Research

trail photo and map• Architecture 452: Research Methods in Architecture
• City of Bozeman Recreation and Parks Department

The project conducted open space mapping, user counts, surveys, and precedent research to provide data to the City and the Gallatin Valley Land Trust that they can use in future open space planning, particularly for trails and pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. Students incorporated research findings, including user count and survey data, precedents for design or policy interventions to develop proposed designs or policy interventions.

Student presentation:

Arch 452 Book-Trails

Report: Trail Usage in Bozeman

Community Service for Parking Fines Project Design

parking violation photo• Honors 494: Design Thinking for the Community
• City of Bozeman Parking Program

The City Parking Program would like to prototype a fine reduction for community service program in the parking district nearest to the MSU campus. Such a program has the potential to positively impact the members of the community for whom payment of parking fines is a heavy financial burden.  A second goal for the project is to improve the relationship between residents of the neighborhood and commuters.  Students engaged stakeholders and collected data to propose various implementation designs for a community service for parking fines program. (*Note:  due to COVID-19 restrictions put in place during Spring semester 2020, students were not able to implement and evaluate a pilot project; instead they provided the City with an overview of their initial design process and findings to guide future efforts.)  

Student design memo:

Parking Fines Project Memo 

Traffic Calming/Complete Streets Project Design

• Honors 494: Design Thinking for the Community
• City of Bozeman Transportation Engineering

College Street between 8thand 11this a busy thoroughfare with heavy student and bike/pedestrian usage.  Students explored various traffic calming designs for the street and planned to implement a temporary pop-up project to test streetscape redesign options. (*Note:  due to COVID-19 restrictions put in place during Spring semester 2020, students were not able to implement and evaluate a pop-up project; instead they provided the City with an overview of their initial design process and findings to guide future efforts.)

Student design memo:

College Street Design Memo