January 8. 2019


MSUB students and faculty with award plaque


MSU Billings receives national award for REAL ID collaboration

Students and professors honored for work on REAL ID campaign



University Communications and Marketing, 657-2266


MSU BILLINGS NEWS—Montana State University Billings, students, and professors were recently awarded an “Excellence in Public Engagement Award” for their collaboration with the Montana Motor Vehicle Division to develop a media campaign for REAL ID-compliant driver licenses.


Brian Zimmer, president of the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License, presented the award on Nov. 15 on the MSU Billings campus and recognized three professors and twelve students involved in the development of research and a marketing strategy for the REAL ID option that Montana will begin to be issued this month.


Over the course of two semesters, students and professors helped develop the public awareness campaign with the Motor Vehicle Division. The students incorporated humor and Montana history into the state’s message and information about REAL ID. 


The campaign utilizes portrayals of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark who have decided to leave their canoes behind. The two try to fly home, only to find they are unable to make it through airport security without their Montana REAL IDs; the duo then tries to enlist the help of their fellow soldiers to finish their journey, only to find they can’t enter a military base without the identification. The campaign emphasizes recreational air travel and identity security through a few impactful statements. 


“We went with a Lewis and Clark theme because we wanted to evoke the idea that this REAL ID law is really about keeping Montanans safe,” Dr. Sarah Keller of MSU Billings, one of the professors involved in the collaboration, noted. “It is consistent with our state’s identity of being traditional and safety-bound and patriotic, and it doesn’t interfere with individual freedoms.”


The campaign’s collaboration came out of Montana State University Billings’ community and MVD with an emphasis upon practical, job-oriented skill building. Students involved in the project were able to gain hands-on experience and impact audiences around the state. “I am proud of this collaborative learning opportunity that gave our students real-world experience, resulting in a creative campaign that is positively impacting the MVD’s REAL ID efforts,” said Dr. Dan Edelman, chancellor of MSU Billings. “The perspective students brought to the table, along with the expertise of our talented faculty, truly enhanced the campaign’s effectiveness in this distinct partnership.”


Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, at the award event held in Helena, noted “Our Motor Vehicle Division provided an experience-rich opportunity for Montana students preparing to enter the workforce upon graduation.” Through the two semesters, five classes were involved in the development of the information campaign. From the gathering of market research to the writing of the scripts, students were involved in all aspects of the campaign. Fox estimated the collaboration saved $250,000 when compared to outsourcing the campaign to a digital media company.


Prior to presenting MSU Billings with the award, the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License had only presented awards to state agencies and officials; these awards recognized state achievements that document security and identity protection and raised public awareness. “We are pleased to recognize the professors and within the body of the award, to highlight that people make the difference in identity-security awareness, as well as in public service,” said Zimmer.


Professors recognized were Keller and Dr. AJ Otjen, who lead the research and marketing strategy endeavor with assistance from Dr. Melissa Boehm. Dillon White, Nicole Halligan, Jenelle Love, Garrett Love, Caitlin Glumbick, Sarah Temple, Bryan Peabody, Rachel Ollivant, Kelsi Gambill, Tom Lohmann, Carmen Barnhart, and Amber Bjorstrom were the students noted for their involvement in the months-long analysis, public engagement, creative alternatives, and the campaign’s final result.