Baylie Phillips can tell you why Montana Technological University's initiative to provide scholarships for Butte students is important. But even more than words can say, she's showing you, with her life.
Phillips, a Butte native, is a junior at Tech. She is excelling at a very demanding field of study — metallurgical and materials engineering.
With the knowledge she has gained at Tech — and the diploma she will get next year — she will likely have her pick of jobs. But she has more than her own career in mind.
"After I graduate I plan on working on aspects of materials science having to do with environmental sustainability," Phillips said. "I'd like to work on environmentally friendly processes that can decrease the size of landfills."
She's also been working on a project to remove selenium from water systems — something that could be vital in many ecosystems. In addition, the project holds promise for dealing with other contaminants. "Like copper and lead, here in Butte," she said.
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Baylie is not waiting until she graduates to begin giving back.
She is an artist as well as a scientist, and among the art she makes are headframe paintings and name boards for use in yards, on kids' bedroom doors, or wherever people would like them. She is donating two of her artworks to this week’s online Butte Endowed Scholarship Auction, Montana Tech’s effort to raise money for scholarships for Butte students.
To Montana Tech, Baylie is the perfect illustration of why the university wants to make more scholarships available to Butte students.
"Montana Tech takes people who have a drive and a hunger to impact the world and gives them the tools to succeed in doing that," said Joe McClafferty, CEO of the Montana Tech Foundation and the school's vice chancellor for development and alumni engagement. "Students often come from ordinary, humble beginnings and they get these tools and go on to do great things. ... the ripple effect is amazing, passing along from generation to generation."
For years, Montana Tech has been focusing on helping to enable Butte students to attend a world-class university right at home.
Tech's Be the First effort has featured full-ride, four-year scholarships for Butte students who are the first in their family to go to college.
The Be the First effort, started in 2018, is bearing fruit. In May, Sadie Starcevich will graduate with an accounting degree. She will be the first such scholarship winner to graduate.
The Be the First program, underwritten by the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, selects three Butte students every year. But the need in Butte is more than three students a year, and the school offers many other scholarships to Butte students. And it wants to be able to keep doing so.
Michael Barth, executive director of the Montana Tech Foundation, said the goal is to establish a $2.5 million endowment that will positively impact students in Butte for years to come.
Tech has received several leadership gifts that have put the school on the path to that goal. As an example, Chris and Liz Wright of Denver have given $40,000 per year for 10 years toward Butte-directed scholarships. Wright is CEO of Liberty Oilfield Services.
This week's online auction is a chance for others to invest in the youth of Butte.
"Any investment in education is a good one," Montana Tech Chancellor Les Cook said Saturday. "An investment in Montana Tech and Butte students is even better. Our vision is to the be the institution of innovation and opportunity. Through the generosity of many individuals, we're able to both support our local community and realize our mission."
Because Butte is Montana Tech's home, the university feels a special obligation to the town's young people. The Butte scholarship initiative is an effort to ensure Tech will be able to act on that obligation for years to come, giving significant scholarships that will bridge gaps and enable Butte students who might not otherwise have been able to go to college.
"Butte is filled with determined doers," McClafferty said. "They can excel in all of Montana Tech's programs. Like Baylie, these young people have what it takes to succeed, mirroring the qualities that make Butte itself such a special place: strong family values, a tireless work ethic, a purposeful, goal-oriented outlook and a knack for getting things done."
McClafferty said Tech is hoping the online auction will be an annual event.
This year's auction has a variety of attractive items donors can bid on, including works of art, concert and sports tickets, even a "Butte Experience" that includes a dinner with Cook and his wife Stephanie and a private Headframe Spirits Distillery tour.
Baylie Phillips knows that she may have to follow her career elsewhere. "Lots of the companies in my field are headquartered on the East Coast," she says. "But I'm looking for a way to be closer to home.
"After getting my foot in the door, maybe I can start my own consulting company and that way I could stay in Montana."
Yet another reason to invest in our Butte students.