Montana State University students explore environmental health issues associated with off-campus living in Bozeman

Students in the microbiology and immunology department research housing risks and translate findings into resources for students

Author

Carl Nelson

Contributors

Susan Gallagher, Marshall Curry

Metrics

Community
Bozeman, Montana
University
Montana State University
Program
Community Engaged and Transformational Scholarship (CATS)
Years
2018-2020
Case Type
Individual Project
Discipline
Environmental Health
Region
EPA Region 8, USA

Located in southern Montana, the City of Bozeman is home to approximately 50,000 people. The Gallatin County seat offers a thriving arts scene, cultural festivals, farmers’ markets, and excellent outdoor recreation in nearby Paradise Valley, Yellowstone National Park, and the Gallatin Mountains. Local officials and residents value a sustainable, equitable, and participatory approach to community planning across a range of focus areas.  

Preparing for successful student life in greater Bozeman  

Moving off-campus is a popular option for Montana State University undergraduates seeking autonomy and housing variety. It is also many students’ first time living outside a campus or family home. Bozeman’s tight housing market coupled with a general lack of awareness about the environmental health risks associated with independent living posed a problem––one MSU and the City of Bozeman Neighborhoods Program wished to address. 

Student scientists evaluate rental-associated health risks  

Neighborhoods Program officials partnered with the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Montana State University through the Community Engaged and Transformational Scholarship (CATS) initiative. Undergraduate students in a BIOM 210: Principles of Environmental Health Science course were tasked with evaluating housing-specific health risks and translating their findings for the benefit of potential student renters. Participants divided into four collaborative working groups, each assigned a specific environmental health issue. They conducted immunological research and surveys and prepared presentations.

Resources for healthy off-campus undergraduate living

Student groups created three final presentations on asbestos, dampness and mold, and lead poisoning, as well as one presentation summarizing student survey results and sharing general off-campus housing statistics.

These comprehensive presentations review course research, describe the history, potential health risks/effects, and variations of each issue, and provide helpful tips for prevention and at-home testing. The survey presentation paints a clear picture of off-campus housing in Bozeman. An environmental health student intern additionally created social media content focused on raising awareness about seven environmental health issues of concern to students living off-campus.

Students participating in this partnership helped to raise awareness and ensure better health outcomes among students living in off-campus housing. 

Read the full story of the partnership.

Read the final student report delivered to the local gov/community partner.