2018 Food for Thought Table Hosts

1.Doug Ammons, PhD Author

Butte, Montana: Why did it become the wildest, craziest, richest, and freest city in America?

Join this lively conversation about the most fascinating city in Montana. How did events in Butte—from mining to politics—have such an impact on the state and the country, and how do they continue to affect us today?

Bio: Doug is a lifelong Montanan who has studied Butte and Montana history for decades. He is the author of A Darkness Lit by Heroes, about the 1917 Speculator disaster, and is currently writing a book on freedom of speech and the Sedition Act coming this next year.


2. Karen Baumgart, director of BillingsWorks

What comes first - the exciting industry or the well-trained employee?

In order to thrive economically as a community, our businesses need talent to grow their organizations. Are we offering the skills necessary for a young person to succeed in today's workforce? Whose responsibility is it to ensure our workforce has adequate and relevant skills? Are we prepared to adapt to the millennial employee and work schedule?

Bio: As the Director of BillingsWorks - Big Sky Economic Development, Karen's role is to facilitate solution-focused conversations and implement innovative strategies with community stakeholders to ensure Yellowstone County has an adequate and talented workforce.


3. Chelsey Bodnar, MD Physician

On the Frontier of Telehealth: The new house call?

The US healthcare system seems poised to make a powerful shift toward the telehealth model. According to some experts, 50 percent of face-to-face doctor consultations could be handled via virtual reality devices. What are the pros and cons of this approach? In rural Montana, could this be the solution for healthcare? Does Montana have the technology infrastructure and, more importantly, the willingness to accept this new type of house call?

Bio: Founder of Ohana Pediatrics, Chelsea is a pediatrician whose career has focused on access to quality pediatric care for underserved children. Her recent work involves the use of technology to improve access to care and the sustainability of primary care in Montana.


4. Seth Bodnar, President, University of Montana

An Outsider Looking In: How are universities adapting to meet the needs of our next generation?

Across the country, education's changing landscape is forcing schools to adapt or fall behind. From rising costs, shrinking enrollment, and shifting job skills, how does a university survive? How do you prevent a university from becoming obsolete? Is it the bricks, ivy, and athletics or the educational resources that will sustain a university?

Bio: Seth is the new President of the University of Montana. He is an innovative and collaborative leader prepared to lead U of M on a path of distinction. He is the son of two educators, and is an ardent voice for public education.


5. Sam Boerboom, Assistant Professor

1968: Why was this the Year that Changed America?

Movements that had been building along the primary fault lines of the 1960s—the Vietnam War, the Cold War, civil rights, human rights, youth culture—exploded with force in 1968. What happened to trigger these events and how are they still impacting us today?

Bio: Sam is Assistant Professor of Communications and Theater at MSU Billings. He was the recipient of the Winston and Helen Cox Fellowship Award for Faculty Excellence.



6. John C. Carlson, wildlife biologist

Why do birds matter? Let us count the ways!

Does your head lift when you hear the call of the Sandhill Crane? Do you wonder how birds survive in different habitats or how they communicate with each other? What do birds mean to you? Are they simply the main course at a Thanksgiving dinner or are they a heavenly messenger? What role do citizen scientists play in our understanding of birds? How are birds coping with changing climates, and will we continue to hear the Western Meadowlark announce the arrival of spring?

Bio: John has been interested in birds since he was 10 years old, and that interest has given him the opportunity to work with birds throughout the world.


7. Patrick Cobb, MD physician

A New Orleans Perspective: Can a city's culture be defined by its cuisine?

Few cities are more closely linked to their food than New Orleans. What impact did the Creoles, Cajuns, Africans, and others have on creating a uniquely American cuisine? How has the post-Katrina environment changed the city?

Bio: Patrick grew up in north Louisiana and attended medical school in New Orleans. He has practiced medical oncology in Billings for 23 years, but returns to his roots whenever he can. He spends much of his spare time in the kitchen and is undoubtedly the biggest Saints fan in Montana.


8. Bill Cole, JD Mayor of Billings

Billings: From the River to the Rims, what is our role in designing a vital city?

What makes Billings special? Is it the people, our history, or something else? Looking into the crystal ball, what is the future of Billings? What will it to take to get there: vision, leadership, or blind luck?

Bio: Mayor Bill Cole is a real estate attorney. He helped develop the Yellowstone Kelly Interpretive Site and is the former board chair of the Billings Chamber of Commerce, City-County Planning Board, and Alberta Bair Theater.



9. Wilmot Collins, Mayor of Helena

What is the social and economic impact of immigration?

Few political issues have generated as much heated debate in recent years as immigration. Due to war, ethnic cleansing, or environmental impact, people are being forced to flee from their homes and families. Who is responsible, and how does a country deal with this tidal wave of people? What role does the United States play? Can the U.S. continue to be the melting pot for opportunity, or have we closed our doors?

Bio: Wilmot was born, raised, and partly educated in Liberia, West Africa. A former refugee who arrived in the United States in 1994, Wilmot now resides in Helena and was elected mayor in November 2017.


10. Pat Coon, MD physican

How do I not lose my mind while caring for a loved one with dementia?

Caring for someone with memory loss can be both physically and emotionally challenging. Who do you turn to, how do you handle situations, and why is it all up to you? Join this important conversation on how, with a little help from dark chocolate and wine, a person can cope with the challenges of dementia.

Bio: Dr. Patricia Coon is a geriatrician who has practiced at the Billings Clinic since 1992. Her medical career has focused on improving the health of seniors, including those with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias and their family caregivers.



11. Shea Dawson, Brewer and Business Owner

Making Billings better, one beer at a time.

How does a corporate finance manager from New Orleans become a craft brewmaster in Billings, Montana? Learn the finer points of sour beer and how the micro brewing industry is revolutionizing a community. Join Thirsty Street Brewery owner Shea Dawson to sip and discover how change opens new doors of opportunity.

Bio: Shea has been brewing beer at Thirsty Street Brewing Co. for over two years and has witnessed first-hand the impact it has had on downtown Billings as well as the greater Billings area.


12. Darrell Ehrlick, Editor

What is the Future of the Press?

Media and journalism continue to experience cataclysmic changes, both in terms of format and expectations of the reader. Many pundits predict the death of newspapers, but few imagine the death of the internet, which offers the greatest hope—and the greatest challenge—for traditional media. Giants like Facebook and Google depend on traditional media for content, but don't financially support local newsgathering efforts. What is the future landscape for media and journalism, and what does that mean for local news and democracy?

Bio: A professional journalist since 1996, Darrell is editor of The Billings Gazette and a native of Billings.



13. Brock Holzer, digital currency miner

"What is Cryptocurrency, how does it work, and why do we use it?"

Launched in 2009, Bitcoin was the first digital currency to grab the public's attention and has been center stage due to its soaring value. The total cryptocurrency market cap approached $1 trillion in 2017, but how is this value determined? Who is actually using this decentralized, digital money and why are people so excited about the blockchain technology its all built on? With such high volatility, can cryptocurrency ever truly go mainstream?

Bio: As a bitcoin hobbyist, Brock has been "mining" bitcoins since 2010 and has created two additional "altcurrencies." As a computer program designer, he is the founder of SnapAppointments, an online scheduling service. Brock attended Montana State University.


14. Kari Kaiser, graphic designer and community volunteer

The Rise of Social Activism: Fad or Future?

Can one person really change the world? What does social change look like and what is the first step to begin the process? From clean water to voting rights, social activism has become the medium for change. Does it work and will it matter in the future?

Bio: Kari started by organizing recycling efforts in high school and has led local activists to engage in politics. She believes each of us influence our world, either by intention or abstention.




15. Ted Kim, filmmaker and producer

What makes a movie magical?

The success of a film, whether critical or at the box office, depends on a staggering number of ever-shifting variables. Hollywood is strewn with the tears of studio executives who spent millions of dollars on "can't miss" films that ended up missing quite badly. When a film does rise to international acclaim, however, the key ingredients can be seen and analyzed with clarity: a great story told with the clear vision of a talented director, skilled actors, compelling characters that inspire empathy, a profound sense of irony and humor…the list goes on. Join us to discuss what elements make a film "magical," and why so few films achieve this level of widespread popularity and respect.

Bio: Ted worked as a producer in the film and television industry for two decades in New York City and Los Angeles. Most recently, he worked with Tokyo Broadcasting System and CBS Studios on the TV series, "Under the Dome."


16. Mary Jane Knisely, JD judge

"Do You Want Fries with That?"

Should cookie cutter, "McJustice" sentences hit the rear view mirror? How do we balance the cost of community safety against individualized alternatives to the prison door? Can we reform without tipping the scales of justice?

Bio: Mary Jane McCalla Knisely is a judge on the 13th District Court in Montana. She was first elected to the court in 2010 and was re-elected in 2016. Knisely earned her B.S. in psychology from Texas Christian University and her J.D. from the University of Montana.


17. Larry Martin, JD attorney and Jim Gransbery freelance writer

Is Civil Discourse Dead?

Can political opposites engage in meaningful civil discourse? This popular duo will lead a lively discussion, so bring your opinion and prepare to engage!

Bios: Larry is an attorney at Felt, Martin, Frazier & Weldon, PC. Jim is a Montana journalist of 40 years, and a retired agricultural/political reporter for The Billings Gazette.


18. Ben Pease, artist

How does art tell a story?

How does art transform a visual image that is able to ignites the imagination, evokes emotions, and captures a truth not available in words? Is it the artist's soul or sight? Is it found in shape, light, or color? How can an artist become a story teller, and why are we so drawn to see this story come to life?

Bio: At 27 years old, Crow/Northern Cheyenne artist Ben Pease stands firmly upon the ideal of education via creativity, as a contemporary storyteller.


19. Alan Muskett, MD surgeon

The Creative Personality—Genius or Nutcase?

What makes a person creative? What are the features of the great artist, athlete, leader, or writer? Can the forces that lead to their greatness also be the dark impulses that torture them? Join Dr. Alan Muskett for a discussion on the creative personality--genius or nutcase?

Bio: As a surgeon for over 30 years, Alan has seen all the slings and arrows of outrageous (mis)fortune. The lessons learned from dealing with high mayhem and roiling personalities will lead this poignant but light-hearted look at how we deal with the creative mind.


20. Aaron Rosen, PhD professor

Is the United States too religious or not religious enough?

The U.S. is more polarized today than at any time in at least a generation. We are divided on questions ranging from abortion to immigration to the rights of LGBTQ+ citizens. Differing perspectives about the role of religion in public life lie at the heart of many of these debates. Is it time to rethink the concept of religion and its role in civic discourse?

Bio: Aaron earned his PhD from Cambridge and has taught at Yale, Oxford, and Columbia. He is the author of many books, including Art and Religion in the 21st Century and Journey through Art.


21. John Sample, PhD, Professor

All Things Space

How will space weather affect our increasingly technology-dependent society and can we ever change it? The Earth is a natural particle accelerator and the Northern Lights are a beautiful visual manifestation of one such process. The Earth's Van Allen radiation belts are another, and "Runaway Electrons" found around lightning are a third. How and why do we study these phenomena, and what is the space program up to these days?

Bio: A Billings native, John is a professor of Physics for MSU Bozeman, who has worked in Antarctica and the far north chasing energetic aurora. He builds and operates satellites and instruments for NASA and the National Science Foundation.


22. Pete Schofield, software developer

What does our digital footprint say about us?

Technology has changed every aspect of our lives, and every interaction with technology leaves a digital footprint. Collectively viewed, these footprints tell the world a lot about us: where we come from, where we are, and where we are going. Many fortunes are built on the collection of this information. However, the story is open to interpretation—who has access to our digital footprints, how they are interpreted, and how the conclusions are used impact our lives. The legal, ethical, and privacy implications of our digital footprints will continue to grow along with our reliance on technology.

Bio: Pete, V.P, serves as the technical visionary leading Zoot Enterprises' software development group, building tools and services that automate data aggregation, analysis, and decisions for many of the world's top financial institutions.


23. John Taliaferro, Author

Lasting Impressions: Why are some Western lives more memorable than others?

Who were the people that made the West "The West?" From cattlemen to politicians, ranchers to prospectors, who had the most influence and why? What are their lasting impacts? Would these people have the same influence today?

Bio: John is the author of six books, including Charles M. Russell: The Life and Legend of America's Cowboy Artist and the forthcoming biography of George Bird Grinnell.


24. Scott Walker, City Planner

What is the value of a city trail?

What role do trails play in building a healthier, more prosperous Billings? Are they solely for exercise, or can trails offer economic benefits? Do the benefits of creating trails outweigh the costs, and if so, why? If one person uses a trail, what are the rippling effects throughout the greater community?

Bio: Scott is the Transportation Planning Coordinator for the city of Billings. Scott received his Bachelor of Science Degree from Indiana State University where he majored in Geography and specialized in Urban Geography and Economics. Scott moved to the beautiful community of Billings Montana where he keeps active with a host of outdoor activities and loves to get around via bicycle.