The University of Montana will welcome 25 Iraqi students this week as part of the 2017 Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program.

The students are participating in a three-week program focused on international peace building through studies in environmental and cultural preservation. They were selected by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the U.S. Department of State and UM.

“I have already learned so much from these students about a region of the world that has been so central to foreign policy activities for a number of years,” said Natalie Dawson, a UM professor and one of the program’s organizers. “We have students from Mosul, Baghdad, the northern regions of Kurdistan and many others.”

UM was one of only four institutions in the United States selected to host the students through a competitive grant program with the World Learning Institute based in Washington, D.C.

While students are in Montana, they will visit Glacier National Park to examine international peace park development and resource protection. They also will visit the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to discuss indigenous rights and cultural history preservation.

They also will explore aspects of Missoula’s summer excitement with baseball games, concerts in the park, and visits to local farms and host families.

Students are selected for the program based on their interest in the topics, as well as their general interest in visiting the United States. When asked, one student said about Montana, “At home, I spend most of my time studying for medical school, and I chose Montana because I wanted to see the beautiful landscapes and escape my studies to explore nature for three weeks.”

The program welcomes community members to join in for activities. For more information and ways to meet with the students, call Dawson at 406-552-5550 or email