University Relations and Communications

MSU Billings faculty member uses professional award to keep love of learning alive in women's prison

December 5, 2012 



Gary Amundson, College of Business, 657-1610
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — As a faculty member at Montana State University Billings, Gary Amundson enjoys seeing the love of learning percolate in his students. Often, the more they learn, the more robust the passion becomes.


And for Amundson, that passion not only comes in a classroom or online setting through MSU Billings, but places where education truly provides a path to a brighter future. 


Places like the Montana Women’s Prison.


photo taken at MSUB Library

Now, thanks Amundson, inmates have 31 new books in the prison library to encourage continued learning in areas of general learning, cooking, baking, crafts and even zoology.


The adjunct professor at the College of Business spends the lion’s share of his time doing general business and finance classes for students at the MSU Billings campus and handles much of the online business classes.  In the fall of 2010, however, he was asked to provide a general business class at the Montana Women’s Prison through the “Pathways to Self-Sufficiency” program offered by the university.


So impressed was he by the passion and interest of the women to learn, he wanted to give something back. So when he was honored by the student government last spring with a faculty excellence award, Amundson thought it made good sense to use the $500 award money to buy books for the women at the prison.


“It was a great experience and I thought it is a worthwhile project so I just wanted to do it for them,” he said.


The Associated Students of Montana State University Billings selected Amundson to receive one of its Outstanding Faculty awards last spring.  Part of the award includes funds for purchasing library materials with funds provided by ASMSUB and the MSU Billings Library.  The idea is that the $500 be spent on library materials that support the faculty member’s own research or that of their students. 


When Amundson and MSU Billings Library Director Brent Roberts started discussing his plans for the award money last spring, Amundson indicated he wanted his award to be spent on materials for the prison library collection to support students taking classes there. That turned into conversations with Annamae Siegfried-Derrick, the operations manager and public information officer at the prison, and Cindy Bell, who helps coordinate the Pathways program at MSU Billings. They talked about what materials might be most appropriate and Siegfried-Derrick, who is an alumna of MSU Billings, conducted a survey of the women to see what they wanted.


That list was in turn handed off to Roberts, whose staff did the purchasing and processing. In mid-November, Amundson, prison representatives, an ASMSUB representative and Roberts met to get those books to the prison. It completed the circle of teaching, learning and community outreach that takes place at the university on a regular basis.


The books – many of them on topics that encourage personal improvement and development – are now in circulation at the prison. The women have enjoyed each of them, Siegfried-Derrick said, with the most popular being the cookbooks.


“These have been a great addition to our library,” she said.


PHOTO ABOVE: Some MSU Billings and Montana Women’s Prison representatives gathered at the MSU Billings Library recently to present some new books for women inmates at the prison. Those who supported the project were, from left to right, Lisa Dallapiazza, ASMSUB senator and Political Science major; Jo Acton, warden of the Montana Women’s Prison and MSU Billings graduate; Gary Amundson, adjunct instructor at the College of Business; Annamae Siegfried-Derrick, operations manager at the prison and an MSU Billings graduate; and Brent Roberts, director of the MSU Billings Library. Amundson used $500 from a faculty excellence award last spring to buy the books.