Katie Clarke


Doctoral Researcher | Whitefish, MT

 Katie Clarke is a doctoral researcher who studies communication and human connection.  Katie has taught communication courses at Hawaii Pacific University and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  She currently serves on the school board in Whitefish, Montana. Along with presenting at National Communication Association and Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conferences, Katie's work can be found in Nothing But The Truth So Help Me God: 73 Women on Life's Transitions; the International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education; and the upcoming book Pro Football and the Proliferation of Protest: Anthem Kneeling and Standing in a Divided America.

Tim Fain

Concert Violinist, Composer, Producer | Hamilton, MT

Avery Fisher Career Grant winning violinist Tim Fain has toured internationally with Philip Glass in Duo Recitals, performed as soloist with the world’s top orchestras and has been featured in films such as Black Swan, 12 Years A Slave and Moonlight. He co-created Light, with Jacob Marshall, for Forbes as the first ever virtual experience sync-ed to a live musical performance, and collaborated with Jessica Brillhart and Google on Resonance, a 360 VR music film for which he composed the score and performed throughout on camera. Tim has written and performed music for numerous other films and VR experiences, and collaborated intimately with artists such as Leonard Cohen, Justin Vernon, Richard Goode, Darren Aronofsky, Lou Reed, and Christina Aguilera.


Jessica Fitzpatrick


Founder/Director, HEARTISM | Corvallis, MT

Jessica is the the Founder and Director of HEARTISM Community Center and Bitterroot Arts for Autism, a local non profit serving special needs children and families. Her background is Therapeutics in Recreation and Psychology with a Bachelor of Science and a passion for understanding the world in a new way as an autism advocate/activist. Jessica's daughter, Sequoia, launched Jessica's journey into the depths of autism and sensory processing. No day is an ordinary day with this extraordinary being.

 *Bitterroot Arts for Autism is a project of Bitterroot RC&D 501(c)3 

Dan Kimzey

Hamilton High School Principal | MT

Dan Kimzey has been an educator for more than twenty years, the past sixteen as an administrator with positions as assistant high school principal, middle school principal, and his current assignment as the principal of Hamilton High School in Hamilton, Montana. Upon graduating from Beaverhead County High School in Dillon, Dan joined the US Army and served as an Arctic Infantryman in Alaska. Upon completion of active duty, he served in various units in the Army National Guard and US Army Reserve until his retirement in 2013, having achieved the position of battalion Command Sergeant Major as his final posting. Mr. Kimzey is the past
president of the Montana Association of Secondary School Principals and his had the good fortune to work with several-thousand students, families, and teachers in North Dakota and Montana. Militarily, he has served on combat and operational deployments as well as numerous training and humanitarian service missions. He is a graduate of the University of North Dakota (B.S. Ed, Social Science Education and MS.Ed, Educational Leadership) and the US Army Sergeants Major Academy. He was named the Montana Secondary School Principal of the Year in 2016 and is a recipient of the Legion of Merit medal. Dan’s wife, Brooke, also a UND alumni, is a speech-pathologist with the Corvallis School District, his daughter, Lauren, is a senior at Hamilton High School and his son, Cole, is an eighth-grader at Hamilton Middle School. He enjoys woodworking and knifemaking, camping, rafting, fly-fishing, hiking, hunting, and most other outdoor sports in his free time.


Russ Lawrence


Adventure travel guide, freelance writer/journalist | Hamilton, MT

For 23 years, Russ Lawrence greeted customers at Chapter One Book Store in Hamilton. In 2009, he and his wife, Jean Matthews, sold the business and spent 2 years as Peace Corps volunteers in Peru. (Jean passed away in 2015, after 38 years together). He has been a freelance writer and journalist since 1979, has authored one book (and translated another), and his byline has appeared in magazines, newspapers, and trade publications.

Russ has performed in more than 40 theater productions; climbed, biked, and hiked from the Outer Hebrides to Tierra del Fuego; and has held a pilot’s license, a license to perform weddings, and an advanced juggling certificate. He currently leads occasional adventure travel trips to Peru, where he speaks just enough Quechua to make the market ladies giggle.

Michael Leach

Author | Bozeman, MT

Michael W. Leach has worked as a ranger naturalist in Yellowstone National Park, Montana fly-fishing and wildlife guide, and head boys basketball coach; but first and foremost, Michael is a dad and a storyteller.  His writing, including his "Love Dad" column, has appeared in numerous regional publications.  In 2014, Michael's first book, Grizzlies On My Mind, topped a regional bestseller  list.  It was followed by Be Audacious, a Foreword INDIEFAB Book of the Year Finalist. 

Passionate about his four generation Western roots, Michael earned a B.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana.   After leaving the National Park Service, he founded Yellowstone Country Guardians, a nonprofit recognized for an unconventional, fresh approach to environmental programming that resonated with today's youth.  

Through his writing, speaking and Be Audacious blog, Michael's mission is to help others break down barriers of conventional beliefs, leading to a more meaningful way to live, work and make a difference. He currently lives with his wife and daughter in Bozeman, Montana. 


Michael McKay


Senior at Corvallis High School | MT

Michael McKay is a senior at Corvallis High School. He is a two-time state champion in Speech & Debate – Extemporaneous Speaking and has qualified and competed at five national competitions including the 2017 and 2018 National Speech & Debate Tournaments, National FFA Convention, and American Legion National Oratorical Contest.

Michael is currently president of the Corvallis Interact Club, Vice President of Corvallis FFA and a three-time state qualifier in golf. He plans to study communications and marketing/advertising in college with career aspirations in corporate communications and public relations.

Nik Miller

US National Team Member | Gainesville, GA

Nik was born and raised in Montana, where he joined the Marine Corps when he turned 18. He excelled as an infantry plt sgt with 3 rd Marines and as a Subject Matter Expert for the Marine Corps Close Quarters Battle program. After his Military retirement, he trained Navy EOD in mission readiness for 9 years. He has excelled in local surf ski races as well as being the US Para-canoe representative at international racing competitions since 2013.  Nik is an above the knee amputee, crushed hip, and ruptured aorta, due to mechanical injuries sustained from a careless driver running a stop sign.

Nik is a force to be reckoned with in the paddling scene, able bodied or para-canoeist and Team USA is fortunate to have Nik racing for them!

Event/Discipline: Para-canoe, KL


Michelle Needles


Senior Vice President, Colliers International | Hamilton, MT

Michelle Needles is a commercial real estate executive with over twenty years' experience advising global clients, working with every type of space imaginable.  Having done deals ranging from retail shops in Beverly Hills and Moscow to manufacturing facilities in Hungary and China, Michelle has made a career of learning to pivot from one topic, one time zone and one business culture to another without skipping a beat.  Often one of the only women in the room, Michelle has made a career of finding ways to connect with her peers and manage the conversation to a collaborative outcome.  Michelle uses these opportunities for the promotion of diversity, and serves as a platform champion for the Colliers International Women's Networking Program.   Michelle brought this passion for leadership and diversity to Montana, where she serves as a volunteer with the local High School girl's rugby team, and as a Board Member with the Boys and Girls Club of Missoula County. 

Karin Peterson

Scientist, Rocky Mountain Laboratories | Hamilton, MT

Karin grew up on a dairy farm in the village of Catawba in northern Wisconsin. Her favorite subjects while attending Phillips High School were biology and chemistry, so she decided to major in Biotechnology and received her B.S. degree from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in 1992.  During her studies, she became interested in viruses and the how the body’s immune response controls these infections.  She went on to study the immune response in graduate school at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, where she received her Ph.D. in 1998.  She then moved to Hamilton, MT to complete additional training (post-doctoral fellowship) at Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) studying the immune response to virus infection from 1998-2003.  In 2004, Karin accepted a position as an assistant professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where she focused on viruses that infected the central nervous system (CNS) and taught classes on immunology and virology.  In 2008, she returned to RML as a tenure-track investigator to set up her own group studying virus infections of the CNS and how the immune response affects virus-induced neurological disease. Karin received tenure in 2016 and promoted to a senior investigator.  Her research group, the Neuroimmunology section, primarily focuses on viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes including La Crosse virus, Jamestown Canyon virus and Zika virus. In her free time, Karin likes to bicycle the back roads of the Bitterroot valley, particularly if the bike ride includes a stop at one of the several great local breweries.  She also enjoys hiking, taking photographs of the amazing scenery and wildlife in the valley, being part of the Hamilton Wild Things women’s football team and traveling to different parts of the world to experience unique cultures.


Land Tawney


President/CEO, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers | Missoula, MT

 Land is a fifth-generation Montanan who developed his conservation ethic from a young age in duck blinds on warm water sloughs in the Bitterroot Valley, at the end of a fly rod during the salmon fly hatch on the Big Hole River, and chasing the wily wapiti in Cinnabar Basin. He received a B.S. in wildlife biology from the University of Montana in 2000 and a PhD in post hole digging while fencing in the family quarter horses and mules. Since graduating college Land has worked to perpetuate the conservation heritage gifted to us, first with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, then with the National Wildlife Federation and now as CEO at Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. 

Land has led the charge at Backcountry Hunters & Anglers since 2013, directing BHA’s growth from a small, volunteer-driven sportsmen’s group to the fastest growing, most effective public lands conservation organization in North America with 25,000 members, 30-plus staff and chapters located all across the U.S. and Canada. Land has won numerous awards including the Nick Kramis Conservation Award in 2017 presented by the Ravalli County Fish and Wildlife Association. In his spare time, Land sits on the boards of the Phil Tawney Hunters Conservation Endowment, named after his late father, and is active in local and regional sportsmen's groups. Any other spare time is spent on the stream, duck blind or chasing big game, often with his wife Glenna, daughter Cidney, son Colin, and black Lab Tule by his side.

Rachael Watters

Stay at home Mother x4, Doctor of Physical Therapy | Hamilton, MT

Rachael holds a Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Loma Linda University.  She has the privilege to be a full time wife to Dr. Benjamin Watters and a mom to Micah (7), Adeline (5), Emerson (3) and Chloe (17 months).  Rachael has a heart for children and mothers.  She understands the demands and isolation that being a mother of young children can bring.  In 2014 she started and co-coordinated a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group in Hamilton. Over the last year she has been involved in a storytelling endeavor entitled MOMedy.  This project consisted of writing and performing a one woman tragic comedy based on her postpartum experiences with five other mommas and one papa at the Roxy Theatre in Missoula.  MOMedy also performed at a perinatal maternal mental health conference at Fairmont Hot Springs in October. 

Rachael considers herself to be a maternal mental health advocate and hopes that sharing her story and bringing awareness to the realities of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can break down the stigma surrounding maternal mental health and encourage others to seek support and treatment.