University Relations and Communications


December 11, 2017



MSU Billings Classes Tackle REAL ID



University Relations and Communications, 657-2266


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — MSU Billings (MSUB) has partnered with the Montana Department of Justice’s Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) to help guide roll-out of the REAL ID law in the state. Students will present final results of their research and recommendations this week to MVD officials.


Three classes at MSUB working on this project include Graduate Research Methods, Integrated Marketing Communications, and Principles of Public Relations. These courses are taught by Sarah Keller Ph.D., AJ Otjen, Ph.D., and Melissa Boehm, Ph.D.


This educational partnership began in summer 2017, with MSUB Professor of Marketing Dr. AJ Otjen. MSUB students spent the fall semester conducting market research, literature reviews, and concepts vetting these with these the state.


“It’s exciting that the state of Montana is entrusting some of the brightest young minds to tackle this project in a cost-effective way,” shared Otjen. “It gives the students an opportunity to work on an impactful project by applying what they learn in classes to real life.”


The REAL ID Act was enacted by Congress in 2005 modifying U.S. federal law pertaining to security, authentication, and issuance procedures standards for the state driver's licenses and identity documents, as well as various immigration issues pertaining to terrorism.


In 2017, Montana State Legislature passed SB 366 to issue REAL ID compliant credentials. The MVD received an extension from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to implement REAL ID. That extension expires October 10, 2018. During this time of extension, Montana drivers’ licenses are accepted by the Transportation Security Administration to board domestic and commercial flights, and access federal facilities.


REAL ID is not required, nor mandated. However, it is needed for anyone who plans to travel domestically by air, enter military bases, or access federal buildings, after the REAL ID extension for Montana runs out. In lieu of REAL ID, other forms of accepted ID, like a passport or military ID, can be used. REAL ID is only needed for people who travel frequently by air and do not have these other forms of ID.


By October 2020, all United States citizens will be required to have a REAL ID compliant identification card or alternative acceptable forms of ID for the prior mentioned activities.


With this project, the MVD is trying to avoid is long lines, ensure proper staffing, and prevent miscommunication about REAL ID. There are many misconceptions with REAL ID; one of which is the concern that personal information will be shared with the federal government. In actuality, personal data will go into a state database, not a federal one.


MSUB students met with officials at MVD, via WebEx, several times through the semester. Initial information was provided by the MVD, then students followed up with literature reviews and research to look at the levels of public awareness, understanding, resistance, and buy-ins for REAL ID. A student-led survey was also conducted. They worked with a mailing list of 4,000 registered Montana voters for their survey sample.


“With this project, we learned that how you present your message is key as you have to use the right words because there’s many ways to say it. Only a few approaches can truly convey what you want to deliver,” shared Braden Rolandson, a senior in the Integrated Marketing Communications class, from Miles City, Mont.


Students evaluated the survey results and compiled their recommendations for the MVD. These included educating staff, creating awareness of initiatives, and developing a target audience for education and awareness campaigns.


“It is rewarding to see our efforts come together in a final proposal and present to the client,” added Brady Ostermiller, a senior at MSUB from Shepherd, Mont. “It’s also great to have this real-world experience on a such an important initiative to include on a future resume.”


MSUB classes will continue development and planning efforts in the spring 2018 semester with hopes of launching the campaign through marketing and communications classes.


For more information contact Professor of Marketing AJ Otjen at 657-1653,