Our Staff


Amy Verlanic
Executive Director

     Amy’s full time career is as the Executive Director of the Institute for Educational Opportunities at Montana Tech where she works to provide teachers and students with college-based programs that enrich statewide science, engineering, and technology education.
     Amy L. Verlanic is the sole proprietor of ALV Consulting. She founded her consulting business after 15 years of a successful career in higher education and community service. ALV Consulting offers project management, strategic planning, and grant writing services to nonprofit associations and educational institutions. Her educational grant-writing skills have garnered over $80 Million in public and private funding
     Amy has held elected office at the local, state, regional and national level. She was the Board Chair for the Council for Opportunity in Education in 2013, where she was charged to represent the needs of 2,900 federally funded TRIO programs serving 840,000 Americans. Ms. Verlanic is a sought after lecturer on educational access issues, grant writing, funding, management and leadership and data management; her work has been shared at the European Access Network and across the US. Ms. Verlanic served seven years on the Anaconda School Board, is the Governor’s Appointee on the Montana Board of Personnel  Appeals and was most recently made a legislative appointee to the Office of Public Instruction’s K-12 Data Task Force.
     The things she is most proud of are her four beautiful daughters and being acknowledged by ASPIRE as the Art Quinn Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

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Tammy Gordon
Institute Budget Analyst

Tammy is in her 15th year as the Budget Analyst for the Institute for Educational Opportunities and the Clark Fork Watershed Education Programs.

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Michael Torpey
Volunteer Extraordinaire

     Michael Torpey, all 98 pounds of him, mightily shreds paper in his volunteer service to the Montana Tech Trio program. It is his job, which he takes quite seriously. His jolly, friendly attitude rubs co-workers and supervisors the right way, every day.
     “Michael serves as a phenomenal example to students that academic achievement and good citizenry is not a result of birth intelligence, but more so of the effort and energy one puts into nurturing themselves,” Amy Verlanic noted. “Like I tell students when I am recruiting, ‘If you have a high want-to, then I want you.’”
     Everybody on campus knows him and loves him as he makes his daily rounds. “He’s always so happy,” said Sally Rasmussen, Coffee Mill cashier in the Mill Building. “He always has his Pepsi and a cookie.”



Bernie Phelps
Director of Jump Start – Dual Enrollment, MCP Director, and SSS Academic Coach.

     Bernie has been with the Montana Tech’s Institute for Educational Opportunities (IEO) for 15 years. She has helped many students in getting a “Jump Start” on their postsecondary education by taking college credits while still in high school, worked with high schools across Montana and served on state and campus committees. She is driven to help students see their full potential and explore careers that fit their strengths.
     As part of the TRIO Student Support Services team, she has helped underserved populations and students with disabilities in successfully navigating their road to postsecondary completion. Through individualized services, one-on-one mentoring, tutoring, group training and nudges the Montana Tech TRIO SSS program consistently achieves high retention and completion rates playing a part in Montana Tech’s positive outcomes.
     For Bernie, what she does day in and day out is truly a calling and she does not see it as a job. She absolutely loves what she does.

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Kinsley Rafish
Public Education Coordinator

     Kinsley is the Public Education Coordinator. Born and raised in Beautiful Butte, Montana, Kinsley graduated from the University of Montana Western in 2017 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration and a minor in Small Business Management.
     Kinsley has worked at MT Tech just a little over three years now and loves being apart of the Digger Family. Serving as the Public Education Coordinator is a rewarding job.
     When not serving students in the high school or on campus you will find me enjoying the great outdoors.

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Theresa Rader
Program Director – TRIO Student Support Services

     Theresa is a proud Butte native. She has been Director of TRIO Student Support at Montana Tech in Butte, MT since 2015. The previous six years she served as TRIO Coordinator for Upward Bound and Talent Search.
     As a first-generation student, she received BA’s in English and Communications from the University of Jamestown. She is a former Montana ASPIRE President and currently serves as the Past President of the ASPIRE Region.
     In addition to TRIO, Theresa co-founded the Montana Tech STEM Academy, assisted in creating an endowed scholarship for first-generation students, serves on the Veterans Task Force and is a member of Indigenous Mentoring Program at Montana Tech.
     Outside of her professional commitments you will find her serving on several community boards.

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Tom Reget
Program Coordinator – TRIO Student Support Services

     Tom, a First Generation Montana Tech Grad, began working with the TRIO SSS program in 2018, he comes to the Institute after 16 years in broadcast television, and another 16 years travelling the highways and byways of this great land producing safety training and reclamation videos at his company Reget Video Productions.
     Working with members of all of the TRIO programs housed by the Institute allows Tom to give something back to students and his Alma Mater. Tom spends his days assisting with the branding of the Institute’s programs, website maintenance, campus promotion, and is the Montana Tech Regional Science & Engineering Fair Director, but enjoys interacting with our students the most, students whose talents continue to amaze.
     When not at work, you can find Tom on the golf course, working on remodeling projects at home, maybe golfing or probably golfing.

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Ricardo Sanon
Program Director – Upward Bound

     Ricardo Sanon entered his first year as the Director of TRIO Upward Bound and Upward Bound Math and Science in 2020.
     Ricardo, a Brockton, Mass. native, is a proud first-generation college graduate and has called Butte his home for seven years.
     When he is not getting involved with the community, Ricardo enjoys being with his family and supporting the Diggers!

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Brandon McLean
Upward Bound/Talent Search
Anaconda Program Coordinator

     Brandon is in his 15th year with the Institute of Educational Opportunities, where has served several target schools.
     He is now in his hometown of Anaconda where he helps students in grades 7 to 12.
     In his free time he likes to travel, ski and spend time with family and friends. He really enjoys watching sports and is a die hard Notre Dame fan ! GO IRISH !

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Adam Maes
Upward Bound/Talent Search
Helena Program Coordinator

     Adam is the Coordinator for the TRIO programs in Helena and Capital High Schools.
     A graduate of Anaconda High School and Montana State University – Bozeman, Adam is also a former Montana Tech Talent Search and Upward Bound Scholar.
     Adam’s passion is to motivate and empower students to reach their full potential. Without the help of TRIO Programs he wouldn’t be where he is today and strives to pay it forward.

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Trish Dillon
Upward Bound/Math Science
Butte Program Coordinator

     Trish is the Upward Bound Math & Science Coordinator at Butte High school.
     She is a native of Oakland California and has been and has worked for youth service programs for 15 years. She has been with the IEO for five years and serves in the Montana Army National Guard.

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Michelle Christianson
Program Director – TRIO Talent Search

     Michelle’s TRIO Talent Search program serves 6th-12th grade students in Helena, Anaconda, Butte and East Helena and whose primary goal is to show them the path to post secondary education.
     Michelle is in her 14th year at the IEO, a place she calls her dream job. Michelle has been married to Alan for 31 years and has 2 grown sons, Tyler and Nate. She also treasures her fur babies, cats Calamity and Halo, and her Australian Shepherd Aussie. She enjoys shopping and eating and shopping, not necessarily in that order!

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Halstyn Stief
Talent Search Program Coordinator
(Helena Middle School – Helena)  

     Halstyn is an 8th grade Special Education Teacher at Helena Middle School. Halstyn was born and raised in Helena MT and went to Carroll College graduating in 2016.
     Halstyn has two younger siblings that mean the world to me. I have enjoyed my time with Talent Search and look forward to working with students!

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Leslie Hagengruber
Talent Search Program Coordinator
(CR Anderson Middle School – Helena)

     Leslie is currently a 7th grade life science teacher at CR Anderson Middle School in Helena, Montana. She moved to Helena 25 years ago from Rothschild, Wisconsin and has been at CR Anderson for 25 years.
     Leslie’s teaching assignments have changed over the years, however her passion for working with children has stayed the same.
     Leslie enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, camping and fishing with her family.

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Kristy Wiley
Talent Search Program Coordinator
(East Middle School – Butte)

     Kristy Wiley is the TRIO Coach for East Middle School in Butte, MT. She was born and raised in Butte. Kristy is a S.T.E.M. teacher at E.M.S. She has been in the teaching field for the past 20 years and her passion is helping students feel successful in their educational path. She has been working with TRIO for the past 2 years and looks forward to many many more.
     She has two high school students her daughter Kadance who is a senior and son Wiley who is a sophomore at Butte High School.  She enjoys the outdoors, spending time with family and friends. She loves her fury babies Remi, Rue and Tink.

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Cony Craighead
AmeriCorps-VISTA Coordinator

     Cony Craighead is an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for the Montana College Attainment Network. Born and raised in Missoula Montana, Cony left for college in the Pacific Northwest.
     After several years traveling for work, she is delighted to finally return to her home state and offer her time and energy in service to her fellow Montanans.

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Leigha Bradford
AmeriCorps Team Leader

     Leigha Bradford is currently finishing my last semester of her master’s program at the University of Montana (WHOO HOO!). Leigha is a full-time AmeriCorps Team Leader in the IEO office at MT Tech. A Butte native Leigha loves her hometown all she can, which is why Leigha chose to come back and serve with the IEO office.
     In her free time Leigha loves to craft and picking up all the unnecessary things her cats feel belong on the floor. She also loves chai tea, so if you ever want to get together and chat, let’s have a chai too!

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Nolan Kirby
AmeriCorps Team Leader

     Nolan is a 23 year old, serving AmeriCorps with Montana Tech, and enjoying Montana!
     Originally from Washington State Nolan moved to Montana through AmeriCorps and Montana Tech where he now works as a lead mentor at Capital High School in Helena.
    His goals as a mentor are to help students succeed in high school, outside of high school, and to push students to explore and create goals for themselves for once high school ends. Nolan gets great joy working with students who are excited about their future endeavors and push themselves to do better in school!
    Nolan’s favorite past-times are skateboarding, cooking, baking bread, snowboarding, and biking. You can catch him working at the Great Divide this winter as a ski lifty!

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Nico Fleming
AmeriCorps Team Leader

     Nico is a team leader primarily based out of Anaconda Montana serving in the local high school. He has extensive experience with education; and in the past has held lecturing, tutoring, and other mentoring positions with Johns Hopkins, Penn State, and other local programs; and so this opportunity has been a different side of the same coin.
     I am originally from Pennsylvania and have always loved outdoor recreation; so I am thrilled to be living in Butte where the trails are quiet and beautiful.

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Brian Darios
AmeriCorps Team Leader

     Hello! My name is Brian, 23 years old, serving with IEO at Montana Tech. I’m working at Helena High School with Upward Bound and Talent Search Students.
     While here in Montana I am hoping to make a difference in the lives of all of the students I work with. I believe that even small moments of support can have big impacts in student’s futures. I am very excited to able to work at IEO and to be a part of the amazing programs that make such a difference in the lives of our students.
     I am originally from Michigan where I attended Michigan State University and obtained a BA in History and Arabic with a minor in Muslim studies.
     I live in Helena with my twin brother and I love to hunt, fish and hike.

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Sierra Hancock
AmeriCorps Team Leader

     Sierra is an AmeriCorps leader here at Montana Tech. She was born and raised in Portland, OR but moved to Washougal, WA.
     As an AmeriCorps member, Sierra is here to serve at the Legion Oasis Apartments to help students who are quarantined due to the pandemic and have no one to help them with schoolwork. Her goal is to make sure these kids have someone to help guide them through homework but also to have some fun every now and then.
     A little about Sierra is that she loves to spend time exploring the great outdoors when she can, or is am normally in the kitchen baking some great cookies.

Contact Sierra


Montana Technological University
Health Science Building 203
1300 West Park
Butte, MT 59701
Fax: (406) 496-4696