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40th Year: Driving Change. Changing Lives.

Did you know ...

1978 20182018 was a good year for reflection and recognition of lessons learned and accomplishments achieved. We now to look to the future. We will usher in 2019 with 37 active programs and projects and an growing budget of $6.5 million dollars. This is only the beginning. Staff and community partners are collaborating to develop project proposals to share with public and private sponsors. We have upwards of 40 trainees working with us this year and are improving learning partnerships with chronically under-served communities. Together we look forward to the next 40 years with our emphasis on improving the quality of life and life satisfaction of people with disabilities in rural communities, their families and those who serve and partner with them.


Did you know ...

In the 1990s, RTC:Rural's rural transportation research led to the development of the Toolkit for Operating a Transportation Voucher Program. In collaboration with the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL), the voucher model addressed the lack of accessible transportation in rural communities. The model has been implemented in multiple states, was updated in 2017 and is available here:

Did you know ...

Rosemary Hughes joined UM as disability researcher in 2006. Over the course of nearly two decades, she has become a national leader on interpersonal violence against people with disabilities. She directed the “ASAP for Women with Diverse Disabilities Project,” “Partnering with People with Developmental Disabilities to Address Violence project,” and “The Safety Project: A Violence Prevention Program for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities.” Rosemary has collaborated on several research projects involving the delivery of interventions in the virtual world of Second Life.  She has also conducted research addressing pregnancy, smoking cessation, weight management.


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Living Well with a Disability is a  health promotion workshop for people with disabilities; participants build life and health management skills to set and achieve goals that are important to them. RTC: Rural provides training and certification for Centers for Independent Living (CILs) to conduct the workshops, and has trained over 1,000 facilitators in 47 states. It is estimated that these efforts have improved the health of nearly 10,000 people with disabilities.

Living and Working Well


Did you know ...

Child Care Plus was started in 1987 as a model early childhood inclusion program for the entire U.S. It closed up shop in 2017 when Sandra Morris retired.

The resources developed by the project are still used across Montana to train early childhood professionals and daycare providers about inclusive early childhood services:

Did you know ...

A statewide study in the late 1970s identified Eastern Montana College (now MSU-Billings) as the best location for the Rural Institute. But, the first director, Bob Crowe, was not interested in living in Billings. The only way he would accept the position was if he could live in Missoula and that is why Rural Institute staff are "Griz" and not "Yellowjackets".

Marty Blair with Pat WilliamsDid you know ...

Developing a Research and Training Center (RTC) focused on rural issues took an act of Congress...literally. In the late 1980s, nine-term Congressman Pat Williams of Montana served as the Chair of a U.S. House committee responsible for education, human services and disability-related issues. He recognized a need for a rural-focused RTC and got the funding in the Federal budget. The Rural Institute  wrote the first proposal in 1988 which was successful; RTC: Rural has been funded at the University of Montana since.

Current Rural Institute Director Marty Blair and retired Congressman Pat Williams met for lunch recently to talk about the RTC's progress over its 30 year history, the current initiatives at the Rural Institute, and future needs of rural communities. It was a great first meeting!

For more information, see the RTC website:


Did you know ...

word cloud with Education, Research, Service, Employment, Healthy Living, Assistive Technology, 1978-2018In the late 1980s, the first RTC:Rural grant was focused on health, technology, transportation, and telecommunications. Alexandra Enders joined RTC:Rural in 1989 to work on the technology initiatives through the RTC's Bozeman satellite office co-located with MSU's engineering program. RTC:Rural begins its seventh grant cycle on October 1; congratulations to RTC:Rural for over 3 decades of research and training that positively impacts the lives of people with disabilities in rural communities across the U.S. and abroad. (Visit:


Did you know ...

Recently the Consumer Advisory Council (CAC) evaluated applications for Community Investment Funds that promote "programs to help Montanans with disabilities live, learn, work and play in their communities alongside people without disabilities". The CAC awarded funds to the following organizations. (See:

Flathead High School will use their seed money for the Braves Coffee Company, a school-based enterprise. This new business will collaborate with community partners and feature students with and without disabilities working side-by-side to plan, market and operate the coffee company.

Quality Life Concepts will use their award to fund a community recreation co-ed softball team. The 40-person team includes clients with disabilities served by QLC, staff, and community members. All team members play, rotating throughout the game so everyone has a turn. They also have a team photographer who takes pictures for the team’s Facebook page.

Congratulations to Flathead High School and Quality Life Concepts for your award!

Did you know ...

1978 - 2018 did you knowThe Rural Institute Consumer Advisory Council (CAC) is comprised of people with developmental/intellectual disabilities or special health care needs, parents or family members of CAC participants and community support professionals (…). The CAC provides input on project work plans, state and national trainings, project evaluations and oversees the Institute’s Community Investment Fund initiative.


Did you know ...

Tom Seekins, Principal Investigator and director of RTC:Rural from 1993 - 2016, received two prestigious awards in 2016 for a lifetime of outstanding service to the disability field, the UM Distinguished Alumni Award ( and the American Public Health Association Lifetime Achievement Award (…/).

Did you know ...

We survey former trainees 2, 5 and 10 years after their time with us; half of our former trainees work in disability fields. This comment from a former trainee was shared on last year's survey:

I learned much about … accessibility of services, barriers to community participation, and the culture of disability. I grew passionate about providing accessible services to individuals living with differing abilities.

Did you know ...

In its 40 years, the Rural Institute has had four directors (five counting a short-term interim director in the early 1980s): Bob Crowe (1978-1982), Rick Offner (1982-1995), Timm Voglesburg (1995-2013) and Marty Blair (2013-present).

Did you know ...

Gail McGregor was the Education & Training director for many years. She supported the MT Office of Public Instruction in their efforts to develop, implement and grow tiered systems of support in schools and districts across the Montana public education system.

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The Rural Institute has been fertile ground for doctoral student research. We count 38 (probably more) students who earned their PhDs using RIIC research projects and activities. In the words of a former trainee:

An essential component of my professional achievements was the mentoring I received at RIIC. Dr. Tom Seekins, Dr. Craig Ravesloot, and Dr. Martin Blair were imperative to my success in finding a post-doc fellowship in Disability and Policy Research.

Did you know ...

Social Science 2009A series within the series: Rural Institute workspaces!

Next, the Rural Institute staff moved from the "Pigeon Palace" in Main Hall to the former University library on the top floor of the Social Science Building ( Even though that space was just as hot, pigeons did not visit. Later, the RIIC moved to the old bowling alley in the UC where the bank, shipping center and hair salon are now. It is unknown if the RIIC staff took advantage of the pin setters and brightly polished wood floor to bowl in the office.


Main Hall University of MontanaDid you know ...

A series within the series: Rural Institute work spaces!

The Rural Institute settled on Missoula as home base in 1979; 4 employees shared a rental house close to the University.  Later, the RIIC moved to the "Pigeon Palace", a corner office in Main Hall; pigeons would come into RIIC offices via windows left open to mitigate the summer heat.


1978 2018 - Research Service Education

Did you know ...

Until the early 1980s, the Rural Institute was a satellite center of the Utah Exceptional Child Center at Utah State University. The Rural Institute became fully independent by 1983.


hearing iconDid you know ...

Mary Morrison joined UM as an ASL interpreter in 1990. Over the course of nearly two decades, she became a national leader in services and supports for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. She co-directed the National PEPNET2 program until her retirement in 2017.


word cloud with Education, Research, Service, Employment, Healthy Living, Assistive Technology, 1978-2018Did you know ...

The Rural Institute is involved with many aspects of disability; everything from healthy living to geography to employment to assistive technology. Some of our projects are represented by the following 8 websites:

 Rural Institute
RTC: Rural
Disability Counts  Data Finder
Telecom Toolbox
Rural Disability Resources Library
Healthy Community Living
Transition and Employment Projects


trainees graph website

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Trainees through the years




Did you know ...

1978 2018The total budget for the Rural Institute in its second year, 1979, was a whopping $271,216.


Did you know ...

AIDTACThe American Indian Disability Technical Assistance Center (AIDTAC) opened its doors in 2000. It provided information, training and technical assistance to VR and employment support staff for 8 years. Funding for the Technical Assistance on Native American Culture project (TANAC) project was discontinued in 2008.


Marty in meeting in KenyaDid you know ...

Over the past 10 years, Rural Institute staff has had an international presence in Peru, South Korea, New Zealand, and Kenya.



MATOR - Raft on beach, man in wheelchair fishing and man using hunting scopeDid you know ...

In 2009, equipment to help Montanans participate in wildlife viewing, fishing and hunting was secured through a Montana Access To Outdoor Recreation (MATOR) project. This program, started by Kathy Laurin, was eventually absorbed by MonTECH. Assistive technology for recreation continues to be available via MonTECH, the Missoula Parks & Recreation MORE program and Wheels Across Montana.

Parks and Rec:
Wheels Across Montana:


Did you know ...

Infant with bowl of pudding.During its first decade, the Rural Institute's focus was research and training in the areas of developmental disabilities and early childhood. Montana's early childhood and early intervention systems were a national model after which Part H (now Part C) of the federal special education law were organized.


RTC:Rural and Tom SeekinsDid you know ...

In the late 80s, Rick Offner, the second Rural Institute director, proposed a new center to the Montana Board of Regents that drew together the Research and Training Center (RTC) and the Rural Institute. Rick hired Tom Seekins as the first RTC research director.  Tom's office was in the same building he lived in as a college freshman.

RTC: Rural:


1978 2018 - Research Service Education

Did you know ...

The official name of the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities is the "Montana University Affiliated Rural Institute on Disabilities" or MUARID. In 2013, we unofficially updated the name to Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities (RIIC) to more accurately describe our work.


RIIC FY2017Did you know ...

The Rural Institute has been awarded $168,611,362 over the last 40 years. The 2004 and 2005 budget years were the highest with total awards of $9.6M and $9.3M, respectively. The average annual budget over the Institute's lifetime is just over $4.2 million. FY 2017 PDF


2012-MonTECH-TEP-MTRoadmap-Young man working at computer

Did you know ...

2012 was a pivotal grant year.

  • The Rural Institute became the first PCORI grant recipient in the intermountain west
  • The Emerging Leaders program started publishing stories to expand the vision of what's possible for youth with developmental disabilities
  • MonTECH was awarded $1 million to start the Montana Assistive Technology Loan program with Rural Dynamics, Inc. in Great Falls.


Meg TraciDid you know ...

The Montana Disability and Health Program began in 2002. It was built on a foundation of some of the first health and wellness interventions for populations with disabilities. Rural Institute researchers designed these interventions with many disability and public health partners in Montana and other states the 1990s. Today, MTDH is one of 19 CDC state funded programs in the country. Meg Traci has directed the MTDH program from the beginning. In 2014, Meg was invited to participate in the White House Summit and Research Forum on Improved Health and Fitness for Americans with Disabilities. In 2015, Dr. Traci was invited to serve on the CDC National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental and the Division of Human Development and Disability, Disability and Health Branch Expert Panel.