Whitefish grad honored for creating positive change

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Micah McFeely is being honored by the Forward Montana Foundation. (Courtesy photo)

Micah McFeely describes herself as an advocate for justice and equity, and often asks herself an important question in her job looking to improve the lives of students at Montana State University.

“How can we make this better for everyone and especially those who have been forgotten?” she said.

McFeely is the program manager for the Diversity and Inclusion Student Commons at MSU with its mission to increase understanding, promote inclusion, and inspire critical thinking about diversity, as well as to provide support for those who identify with a wide range of diverse identity groups.

She took over in the role last spring prior to graduating with her bachelor’s degree in economics and minor in statistics. McFeely is a 2015 graduate of Whitefish High School who spent her college career and now beyond working toward social change in her community.

The Forward Montana Foundation has recognized her efforts by naming her to its list of 25 Montanans under age 25 who are leaders across the state creating positive change in their communities. The awardees, who were all nominated by someone in their community, will be honored at the foundation’s annual Williams’ Effect event in Bozeman on Sept. 21. The foundation is a statewide nonprofit organization that organizes, educates, and engages young people in the political process with the intent of improving the lives of Montanans.

“Now more than ever, young people need to know that their vision and dedication to making Montana a stronger, brighter, and more equitable place is valued by their peers and the broader community,” said Rachel Huff-Doria, Forward Montana Foundation Executive Director, in a release. “That’s why Forward MT Foundation is excited to recognize the leadership of young people through our annual Williams’ Effect weekend.”

McFeely said she’s honored to be part of the list of young leaders who are working on issues such as economic development, suicide prevention, agriculture, sexual assault and relationship violence, and conserving Montana’s watersheds.

“It’s such an honor to be recognized amongst some amazing individuals who are working to create positive change in their communities,” she said.

Her first weekend at MSU, McFeely attended a “Common Ground” retreat where she was placed with 30 other students as they explored identity issues with race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. She says the weekend was mentally exhausting, but opened her up to understanding many of the privileges she had in her life.

The experience inspired her and during her college career, she served as student body vice president, a resident advisor, an MSU Voice Center Advocate and Peer Educator, a Safe Zone Project Facilitator, a Sustained Dialogue Moderator, and an international buddy program president and leader.

McFeely was prompted to run for student government after hearing from her peers that issues surrounding inclusion and student wellbeing weren’t being addressed. The ideas behind her platform have continued in her role at the Diversity and Inclusion Student Commons.

“I love working with students because they’re so passionate and resilient,” she said. “They come from different parts of the country from different social identities and we can look for ways to build each other up and support them. I want to enhance the student experience.”

McFeely is enjoying her time in Bozeman as she plans for graduate school. She has earned an institutional nomination for a Rhodes Scholarship and hopes to attend the University of Oxford in England next year studying evidence-based social intervention and policy. She hopes to apply her knowledge of economics and statistics to bring numbers to abstract ideas surrounding social issues to influence change.

“I wanted to understand those numbers and help make social change happen,” she says. “It’s about understanding the bigger picture to social issues. It’s my passion and where my heart lies and the burden on all of us to undo the systems of oppression.”

McFeely says growing up in Whitefish has inspired her to go out in the world and help others. She says the loss of her father’s business while she was in high school created a difficult situation for the family financially as she prepared to head to college, but the support she received from her community in the form of numerous scholarships made it possible for her to attend MSU.

“Whitefish really is a community unlike any other,” she said. “Whitefish is the place that allowed me to build who I am and think about the world.”

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