Montana 2018 Fellows

Meet the 2018 Montana Fellows
(back to NLC 2018 Fellows)

Elizabeth Albers

Staff Attorney, SAFE Harbor

Montana_Liz_Albers_-_Liz_Albers.jpgLiz Albers was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts where she earned her Bachelor's in Business Management from Simmons College with a minor in Arts Administration. She then attended the University of Maine School of Law where she was a member of the Women’s Law Association and Law Students for Reproductive Justice. In 2014, Liz moved to California where she discovered her passion for public interest law while volunteering at the Legal Aid Society of Orange County and the Family Protection Clinic at the Chapmen University Fowler School of Law. She also discovered an interest in politics, especially the need to elect pro-choice, democratic women while attending a candidate training event and moved to Montana in 2016 to work for the Montana Democrats. Liz subsequently joined the SAFE Harbor legal program in Polson, Montana where she currently represents survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking in their civil cases. In 2017, Liz was appointed to the Montana Arts Council where she gets to help expand the arts in Montana by assisting artists, arts educators, and entrepreneurs. Liz’s other loves include hiking, camping, flannel shirts, cooking, crime documentaries, pizza and Boston sports radio. She resides in Missoula with her husband, Charlie and their dog, Toast.


Leah Berry

Associate Political Director, Western Organization of Resource Councils

Montana_Leah_Berry_-_Leah_Berry.jpgLeah Berry was born and raised in rural Central Montana. Leah has a Bachelors of Arts in History and Political Science from Montana State University Billings. She began her start in political community organizing in 2014 when she worked to increase the democratic bench at the Montana Legislature with the Montana Democratic State Legislative Campaign Committee, then continued in 2016 when she led an effort with the Montana League of Rural Voters to reelect Governor Steve Bullock and Justice Dirk Sandefur to the Montana Supreme Court, as well as partnered with Western Native Voice to bring Denise Juneau to Washington DC, and most recently as the Field Director with Montana Native Vote to elect Rob Quist to Congress. Along the way Leah has knocked tens of thousands of doors talking to voters in our railroad communities about oil by rail safety, communicating to voters in Billings about affordable clean energy options, trying to change the minds of voters in Billings on climate change, and encouraging voters across Montana to register and turn out to vote. When Leah is not organizing voters and advocating for issues she cares about you can find her on a river with her fly rod, at an event learning more about her community, or at home with a good book revitalizing her lack of extrovert-ism.


Mariana Cahalan

MontanaIMG_0302_-_Mari_Cahalan.jpgMariana Cahalan calls Missoula home, though she has not lived there long-term since moving to Seattle to attend college in 2007. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Sport and Exercise Science from Seattle University, Mariana returned to the part of Montana that holds her heart, Glacier National Park to complete a fourth season performing trail maintenance for the National Park Service. Eager to see what the world had to offer Mariana then took a job working in the remote Utah wilderness with at-risk youth where staff used the elements of nature as tools to teach students responsibility, accountability and communication. Still hungry for adventure, Mariana took a job as a Field Coordinator at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Mariana spent the Austral summers outfitting grantees with important field equipment and accompanying the grantees to field camps to manage logistics. She found a happy balance chasing the sun between Glacier National Park and Antarctica. After three years in this rotation, Mariana decided it was time for her biggest adventure yet. She has recently moved back to Missoula and enrolled in the University of Montana where she is pursuing her lifelong dream of becoming a physical therapist. Mariana is excited to be back in her hometown, to plant some roots and to use and share her experiences in a professional setting. She plans to become a travel physical therapist to satisfy both her professional desires and her love of travel. Eventually Mariana would like to run her own business where locals and out-of-towners alike can receive treatment while sharing stories about their own latest adventures.


Laura Camilleri

Graduate Research Assistant (PhD Candidate), Montana State University

Montana_Laura_Camilleri_-_Laura_Camilleri.jpgLaura grew up regularly volunteering at animal shelters as well as with her mother and grandmother, both of whom are nurses, at various state hospitals and retirement centers. Her passion for service led her to pursue a medical degree, however, while seeking counsel from her genetics instructor, he invited her to work in his laboratory and her passion to become a scientist was sparked. Currently Laura is finishing her Doctorate in Environmental Microbiology at Montana State University in Bozeman where she studies the physiologic characteristics of an interdomain methanogenic biofilm (sulfate reducing bacterium and methanogen that grow adhered to a surface and results in methane production). As an undergraduate she enjoyed teaching youth at the Casper Mountain Science School (Casper, Wyoming) and has continued volunteering and mentoring. For the past four years she has been a co-instructor for the university course “Microbes in the Environment” where she has highlighted microorganism importance in industry. Her experiences have led her to be an advocate for the underdogs and promote better communication which currently is focused specifically on communicating science to the general populace. In her free time Laura loves to help animals and enjoys high adrenaline activities such as endurance horse racing, snowmobiling, motorcycles, and soon will add flying planes to the list.


Amanda Dellwo

Families in Transition Coordinator, Willard Alternative High School, Missoula County Public Schools

Montana_Amanda_Dellwo_-_Amanda_Dellwo.jpgAmanda Dellwo answered the call of the mountains and is proud to say that Missoula, MT has been her home for over the last five years. She comes from her birth state of Iowa, growing up in Sioux City, IA and then completed her BA in Social Work from Loras College in Dubuque, IA in 2008. She stayed in Dubuque to begin her professional life path and came into her own more by fostering her passion for working with youth in alternative, service-learning settings with wrap-around support. Wanting even more personal and professional growth, she moved to Missoula and has created a home and community here. Over the last few years, she has worked in a variety of positions that serve vulnerable and at-risk populations that are experiencing homelessness and other significant barriers. Currently, and hopefully for a long time, Amanda serves as a student and family advocate through the FIT program at Willard Alternative High School, with Missoula County Public Schools. Amanda is very passionate about her role at Willard and wanting to support disengaged, wounded youth as they navigate high school for successful graduation, and how to manage the unwritten rules of adulthood and independent living. When Amanda is not working, she serves on the board of directors for Missoula Interfaith Collaborative and loves to spend time and cozy up with family and friends. She says yes please to chocolate, traveling, sitting around a fire, paddling her big red canoe, hiking, and enjoying the natural beauty that surrounds her Montana home. Amanda is very excited to be a part of year’s class of NLC fellows and for the inspiration, empowerment, and growth that will be shared within this progressive community.


Marguerite Jodry

ACA Navigator, Planned Parenthood of Montana

Montana_Marguerite_Jodry_-_Marguerite_Jodry.jpgMarguerite Jodry is the founder of Billings Groundswell, a coalition of urban agriculture organizations working to further access to good food for all in Billings Montana. She advocates for making the benefits of sustainable agriculture available to people from all backgrounds and educates her community on the importance of local foods. As a farmer organic vegetable farmer and mentor, Marguerite is passionate about educating new farmers for today's changing climate. On a volunteer level, she works to promote local agricultural businesses by aiding with the startup of the Yellowstone Valley Producers Cooperative, and seeks to make her own neighborhood a more engaged and inclusive place to live as the chair of the South Side Neighborhood Task Force.


Maura Jones

Behavior Specialist, Western Montana Mental Health

Montana_Maura_Jones_-_Maura_Jones.jpgMs. Jones has been fortunate to call the foothills of Montana’s Rocky Mountains home longer than she can remember. She will never forget seemingly endless summer days spent reading in hammocks, playing convenience store with her older brother and adventuring in the forest so long as she brought her dog, a whistle, and Louisville Slugger. Gradually Ms. Jones grew into a young adult, moved a little way down the road and attended the University of Montana. She graduated with a degree in Psychology during the height of the ‘Great Recession’. Finding fewer than anticipated entry-level Psychology related jobs available in Missoula, Ms. Jones began her early career as a member of AmeriCorps. Her first position took her to Spokane, where she served as a Literacy Coach with Washington ReadingCorps. Once back in Missoula, she served as YWCA Missoula’s Pathways Children’s VISTA and finally VISTA Leader with Montana Campus Compact. Ms. Jones learned much about herself, her skillset, priorities and community during her time in AmeriCorps. Her biggest takeaways from national service include the importance of individual community and civic engagement, confidence in her abilities to network, organize events, work as part of a team to accomplish a goal, and her leadership capabilities. Ms. Jones loves living in a community like Missoula where there are so many people and organizations committed to empowering others to thrive; from mental health to housing, education and beyond. Ms. Jones’ experiences in national service with youth and in schools combined with her degree and interest in psychology finally aligned, and led her to her current position with Western Montana Mental Health Center. As an Adolescent/Middle School Behavioral Specialist, she works each day to help clients recognize the skills and abilities they already have, learn new skills and strategies, and guide them in using those tools to improve their academic, social-emotional and home lives. Ms. Jones is currently enrolled in the University of Montana’s Online Nonprofit Administration Certification, and plans to apply to the University’s graduate program very soon. Her future plans can be summed up in the words of the late, great David Bowie, “I don’t know where I am going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” Ms. Jones would also venture a guess that there will be lovely times in mountains, hammocks, and with pets family and friends.

Kelly Kortum

IT Specialist, Community Food Co-op

Montana_Kelly_Kortum_-_Kelly_Kortum.pngKelly Kortum grew up in rural Ekalaka, Montana. In 2003, he moved to Bozeman for college and could find no reason to consider leaving.

Kelly began the path to his professional career in middle school when he started getting calls from his local community requesting help fixing ""that damned computer"". For the next 20 years, he honed his ability to interact with clients of all ages and backgrounds to help them feel comfortable and confident when using ever-changing technology. After graduating with a degree in computer science, he began working professionally for the Community Food Co-op in Bozeman as an IT Specialist. Before that, he worked as a 4th-party computer contractor, student IT administrator, construction laborer, wild-land firefighter, and a ranch hand.

In the summer of 2015, Kelly complained to two of the local Democratic leaders about the lack of current information on their website and found himself appointed Website/Communications Director within a few months. He went on to attend both state conventions since, and voted in the 2017 special election primary convention. Additionally, he co-founded a local non-partisan progressive group, Gallatin Progressive Action Network, in summer of 2016. He is currently the Gallatin Democrats Vice Chair and leads their communications committee. He also writes a progressive events newsletter for Gallatin County twice a month.


Sophie Moon


Montana_Sophie_Moon_-_Sophie_Moon.jpgBorn and raised in Missoula, Montana, Sophie is attending the University of Montana where she is a junior in Environmental Studies and Political Science. Getting her start with the Montana Public Interest Research Group (MontPIRG) her freshman year as an intern, Sophie engaged in hands-on, grassroots activism to Save the Smith River and engage young voters. Continuing her work with MontPIRG as a board member her sophomore year, Sophie also began volunteering with Garden City Harvest at their Orchard Gardens site, an organic farm neighboring and serving an affordable housing complex, which sparked her interest in sustainable farming and food justice. Her junior year, three life-changing and simultaneously occurring opportunities culminated into a passion that would ultimately become her calling: interning at the P.E.A.S. Farm, becoming the Chair of the MontPIRG Board of Directors, and interning for Carol’s List. Although these three roles in her life were in entirely different areas, ranging from sustainable farming to food justice, civic engagement to youth advocacy, female empowerment to reproductive freedom, there was a common thread throughout it all: engaging and empowering the next generation of leaders. This common thread inspires her continued work in sustainable agriculture, integrated with civic engagement and female empowerment. This multidisciplinary approach is intended to create positive, tangible change in agricultural policy to create opportunities for sustainable farmers, and particularly young, female farmers. Someday soon, Sophie hopes to be the executive director of a nonprofit geared towards organizing young farmers to create progressive policy changes, and her long-term goal is to run for office.


Megan Petersen

Physician, Billings Clinic

Montana_Megan_Petersen_-_Megan_Petersen.jpgMegan Petersen is currently a Gynecologic Oncologist in Billings, Montana. Moving to Billings was an unexpected turn in her life’s journey. Since arriving she has grown to love the people of Montana and gained the opportunity to pursue her goals of establishing health care policy and serving her community. Currently, she serves on a committee to construct a curriculum for physician leadership within her hospital and is working on increasing access to care in Montana. Megan grew up in a suburb of Denver, Colorado and decided to be a doctor at an early age. She was the first from her family of seven to graduate college which led to medical school. In the time between undergraduate studies at University of Colorado, Boulder and medical school at University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, she lived in New York City working as a clinical researcher at New York University. There she grew both emotionally and socially and has used this experience as a foundation for her future endeavors. During medical school, she met the love of her life and started a family. She completed an internship in internal medicine in Salt Lake City, Utah, an OB/GYN residency in Phoenix, Arizona and fellowship in Sacramento, California. Ultimately, she decided to pursue a career in Gynecologic Oncology to work with cancer patients and their families. She chose women’s medicine because of the ability to establish close bonds and strong relationships with her patients while supporting their rights. She and her husband both work at Billings Clinic in Billings, Montana. They are raising their three young children and striving to build a productive, authentic, giving family.


Caitlin Piserchia

High School Conservation Crew Leader, Student Conservation Association

Montana_Caitlin_Piserchia_-_Caitlin_Piserchia.jpgAfter growing up in New Jersey and starting college in Oregon, Caitlin moved to Montana to complete her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies (with a writing focus) & Wilderness Studies at the University of Montana. She credits her experience working for Student Conservation Association in Texas as a 16-year-old trails worker with sparking a lifelong interest in environmental and social justice— beginning in high school. Throughout high school, she was actively engaged in advocacy as a leader of “Students Taking Action Now: Darfur” and an editorial-writing enthusiast who was granted her school’s “Journalism Award.” As a student at University of Montana, Caitlin co-founded Reinvest Montana, a campaign to divest University of Montana’s assets from the top 200 fossil fuel companies and reinvest at least 5% in socially and environmentally responsible alternatives. After a year of campus organizing, she spent two years working for Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network as a Northwest Network Organizer. During that time, she planned two major regional training convergences and supported other students across the region in taking risks, overcoming fears, and strengthening their campaigns. She trained new leaders across the Northwest, facilitated strategy spaces, crafted campaign messaging, led nonviolent direct action campaigns, and developed an unexpected penchant for public speaking. In 2015, Caitlin was named one of Forward Montana’s “25 under 25” changemakers in Montana for her work as part of Divestment Student Network, Reinvest Montana, and the Montana Student Activism Summit planning team. Throughout the last five years, Caitlin has also worked as a high school conservation crew leader and mentor to diverse groups of high schoolers in Rocky Mountain National Park, Rappahannock National Wildlife Refuge, Mount Rainier National Park, Okanogan National Forest, and the San Juan Islands. She reserves a special place in her heart for Student Conservation Association. Her guiding passions include writing, organizing for climate justice, mentoring young people in outdoor settings, and doing hands-on work on public lands. She wants to see more progressive, climate action-oriented candidates run and win electoral campaigns, she wants to help change social and political narratives that favor big corporations and income inequality, and she wants to help build the political will to change our national energy infrastructure. Caitlin has multiple ideas for next steps, but all of her plans include work that’s strategically hopeful and geared towards supporting and building a positive vision for the future. She currently lives in Missoula, MT.


Nikki Robb

Program Associate, Missoula Community Foundation

Montana_Nikki_Robb_-_Nikki_Robb.jpgNikki Robb is a Missoula native who left Montana for college and work experience only to return to her roots in 2012. She is a graduate of California State University Chico, where she received a double major in Recreation Administration; Special Events and Tourism and Hotel and Lodging Management. She holds minors in Marketing and Sustainability. After college, Nikki moved to Australia to work within her field. There she helped in planning, coordinating and implementing Sustainable Event Practices at large scale events around the country; from music festivals to real estate conferences and award shows. Since returning to her hometown, she began her own event coordination company focused on fundraising for local area non-profits with the occasional wedding. Five years later Nikki is still consulting with her events company and she also now works at the Missoula Community Foundation as Programs Associate. Here she focuses on programs, fundraising, and development. Nikki has been a member of Soroptimist International of Missoula since 2015; she is on the board of Friends of the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. In her spare time, Nikki enjoys anything outdoors from snowboarding to floating the river; her fur friends; the Green Bay Packers and coordinating fun social events for friends and family. Nikki is often seen volunteering her time at events in her community.


Elizabeth Samson

Case Manager/Advocate, YWCA Helena

Montana_Elizabeth_Samson_-_E_Samson.jpgLiz Samson was born and raised under the Big Sky and completed a BA in psychology and anthrozoology from Carroll College. During her time at Carroll, Liz had the opportunity to complete an intensive social work internship with the Office of the State Public Defender advocating for opportunity in the courtroom, community, and correctional system. Additionally, she contributed to a research project focused on the empowerment and aggression in women that later culminated in a presentation at the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association spring conference in Denver, CO in 2016. Today, Liz works as a case manager and advocate for the WINGS program at YWCA Helena. Liz is continually surprised and impressed by the resiliency of the women she has the opportunity to work with; she begins each work day with a gratitude circle and ends with a home cooked dinner, in the hours between she is teaching, supporting, organizing, and advocating for the sisterhood at YWCA Helena. She has found a passion for advocacy, change, and progressive policy within the criminal justice system believing that every individual deserves dignity and a fair chance. Outside of work, Liz enjoys hiking and fishing the Mission Mountain Wilderness, spending time with her animals and riding her horse, working in her vegetable and flower gardens, and exploring yoga, dance, and all things fun.


Eric Schmidt

Architect in Training, High Plains Architects

Montana_Eric_Schmidt_-_Eric_Schmidt.jpgEric Schmidt is a newcomer to Montana having previously lived and studied in the Pacific Northwest. While receiving his B.A. in anthropology from Whitman College Eric became fascinated with the way people live, build, and interact with their environment. He decided to apply that interest through the practice of architecture and completed a Master of Architecture degree at the University of Oregon. Eric works for High Plains Architects as an architect in training and project manager; the firm specializes in environmentally responsive, high performance design, historic rehabilitation and adaptation, and urban revitalization. Dedicated to the highest standards of sustainable and regenerative architecture, Eric is a Certified Passive House Consultant® and LEED Green Associate, and strives for all his projects to be low-energy, healthy, and beautiful. Away from the drafting desk, Eric: is the co-chair of the Better Billings Committee of Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council; volunteers with Northern Plains Resource Council and their Clean Energy Task Force; sits on the USGBC-Montana Market Leadership Advisory Board; and, as an Eagle Scout, volunteers with a local Boy Scout troop as merit badge counselor and role model.


Makenna Sellers

Community Organizer, Northern Plains Resource Council

Montana_Makenna_Sellers_-_Makenna_Sellers.jpgMakenna Sellers is a new Community Organizer for Northern Plains Resource Council. She recently graduated from Gonzaga University in Environmental Studies and Sustainable Business. During her time at Gonzaga, she served as a student coordinator in the Office of Sustainability and focused on fundraising, advocacy, and outreach for Rethink Waste, a university-wide campaign she designed to rethink and repurpose our waste systems. In her free time she enjoys backpacking, performing Italian Arias, and being in the presence of dogs. Makenna plans to pursue a future in aiding global sustainable development by celebrating the expertise of indigenous knowledge.


Rebecca Stanton

Graphic Designer & Online Advertising Coordinator, Lee Enterprises

Montana_Rebecca_Stanton_-_Rebecca_Stanton.jpgRebecca Stanton grew up on a farm in Garfield County, and currently lives in Bozeman working as a Graphic Designer, Online Advertising Coordinator, and Project Manager for Lee Enterprises. She attended school at Montana State University where she received a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and a Master’s of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. Rebecca is a natural organizer and has been involved with planning for the Women’s March of Montana, Gallatin County Democrats, Gallatin Progressive Action Network, and is currently the Regional Organizer for the Gallatin/Park County Chapter of Big Sky Rising. Because of her design and technology background, project management experience, and ability to efficiently organize, she has helped coordinate the marketing and completion of rallies, protests, voter registration drives, campaign events, meetings, and outreach gatherings for a number of different groups whose issues range anywhere from education to social, economic, and environmental justice. She also manages the Facebook group for Gallatin/Park County Big Sky Rising, and spends most of her energy marketing and disseminating information on progressive issues and events. Although she hasn’t chosen a specific issue to work on, Rebecca is passionate about issues that affect rural communities because of her upbringing in a very rural area of Montana. When she is not working or volunteering her time, she loves to dance, hit the gym, and then watch as many TV shows and movies as possible.


Katie Sutton

Director, Montana Organizing Project

Montana_Katie_Sutton_-_Katie_S.jpgBorn and raised in Portland Oregon, Katie Sutton moved to Montana over 6 years ago. Since then she has lived in Missoula, Bozeman, Cody (WY) and Billings. She successfully earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Sustainable Foods and Bioenergy Systems as well as a Business Administration Certificate from Montana State University.

Currently Katie works as a Director for a non-profit called Montana Organizing Project. MOP works to connect faith, labor, and community groups around social justice issues most impactful to them. Financial reform issues are at the forefront of the organization at the moment, ensuring that payday lenders keep their products out of our state, and that our congressional delegates do what they can to protect Montanans from fraudulent financial products. MOP will be expanding its scope in the next year to take on more issues.

Katie also works part-time as the Office Administer for Billings First Congregational Church in Downtown Billings and volunteers as Chair for the Community Food Campaign. CFC is a membership lead community group under Northern Plains Resource Council that is working on implementing a better local food system here in Billings. They are working currently on eliciting the funds to put their business plan into effect, and bring Billings its very own Food Hub. The Food Hub will help aggregate producer’s products such that they can better mean the demands of local institutions like schools and hospitals in the area.


Jessica Wilkerson

Domestic Violence Staff Attorney, Montana Legal Services Association

Montana_Jessica_Wilkerson_-_Jessica_Wilkerson.jpgJessica Wilkerson serves as a Domestic Violence Family Law Attorney for low income people. Through this position, she assists survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Prior to her work with Montana Legal Services Association, she served as a public defender, handling all types of cases, in Anaconda, Montana. Jessica was born and raised in Montana but ventured out for her education, attaining a bachelor of science from the University of Puget Sound in 2006 and J.D. and Masters of Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School in 2012. She enjoys learning about people's experiences, hiking with her constant canine companions, and reading fiction and nonfiction.